Released on February 23 in Brazil, The Whale (The Whale)directed by Darren Aronofsky and written by Samuel D. Hunter, marked the return of Brendan Fraser, star of The Mummy (1999) and demonic (2000), to the cinema after many years away from the big screen. The actor was even nominated for an Oscar 2023 in the category of Best Actor for his performance in the work, which was produced by the famous producer A24.
In The whaleFraser plays a severely obese teacher who, realizing that his health is deteriorating, tries to reconnect with his teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), who harbors a lot of remorse for her father, since he abandoned her as a child. to live a romance with one of his students.
But will The whale is it good after all? Is it worth watching the film, which has been controversial since before its official release? Below, you can find a narrative and critical analysis of The Whale!
The Whale: narrative and critical analysis (WITH SPOILERS)
Inconstancy. That’s the word that came to mind after watching The whale. The impression that stayed with me is that Aronofsky’s film is not all good, nor is it all bad, and oscillates with some frequency between interesting moments and others that are quite unnecessary. And this happens from the beginning of the projection, through the aesthetic choices (which greatly reinforce the narrative ideas) made by the direction, through the way the protagonist Charlie is portrayed, to the narrative and character dynamics.
What’s good about The Whale?
But let’s go by parts. Starting with the good times The whale: the great highlight of the film, without a doubt, is the great performance of Brendan Fraser, who has not appeared in the cinema for some time. Throughout the project, the actor gives Charlie a very great subtlety, which arouses empathy in the public, who can perceive how kind and affable the man is. Without us fully realizing it, we embrace the character’s story and start to care and root for him (even knowing his troubled past), something that owes a lot to the beautiful work done by Fraser.
Now, already entering the narrative, the biggest highlight is the famous essay that Charlie declares (or asks someone else to do it) whenever he thinks he is going to die. At first, the plot does not make it clear whether the text is authored by Charlie, a famous writer or something like that. We just know that he is extremely important to the protagonist, who seems to see himself in him somehow.
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Later, in the third act of The Whale, we discover, in an emotionally charged passage, that the essay was written by Ellie, his daughter, when she was still a child. This creates a kind of full circle in the narrative (since the essay appears at the beginning, during and at the end of the work) and constitutes a sensitive and tender detail that manages, in fact, to move.
Ellie is the great affection of Charlie’s life, however, the girl does not correspond to her father’s approaches.Source: A24
Finally, I also emphasize the choice to keep Charlie’s house as the only setting for The Whale, alluding to the play, written by Samuel D. Hunter, on which Aronofsky’s film is based. As on stage, Charlie remains at home throughout the film, interacting with the other characters who visit him. An option that works, since the narrative even flows well over its almost two hours, and that gives that timid wink to Hunter’s original creation.
What’s bad about The Whale?
Despite these good times and choices, The whale it fails in several other aspects and, unfortunately (or not), its bad sides end up overshadowing what could make the work more interesting or memorable. First, I need to mention the shallow and one-sided way in which the script portrays Charlie: a sad man, sunk in his own problems, who asks forgiveness for everything and everyone (even though he doesn’t need it), who frightens anyone who sees him and who can’t get back up.
It’s as if the production of the feature didn’t like its protagonist and didn’t try even a little bit to show that Charlie has much more to offer than a huge handful of sadness and unhappiness. In that sense, Fraser’s performance really is what saves the character who, despite everything, still manages to express sympathy (no thanks to the script).
Worse than that, Hunter’s script seems, at times, to want to reinforce the idea that, in addition to being irremediable, Charlie would be a disgusting creature whose dark end is inevitable. For example, do you remember when I talked about the aesthetic choices of the direction of The whale? Well then, let’s analyze them. In addition to a darker and more discolored photograph, which already conveys a more melancholic feeling to the narrative, the project sets Charlie in a somewhat old, disorganized, poorly lit and small house. It’s as if the place is a secluded, abandoned and claustrophobic cavern in which some kind of monster lives, which is always prowling in the shadows (think how many times we see Charlie sitting in the dark, not seeing him very well).
To make matters worse, the production gave life to sequences and passages that further reinforce its apparent contempt for its own protagonist. What would be the narrative function of the scene in which Ellie (who seems to personify the aforementioned contempt) “forces” her father to get up and walk towards her, for example, if not that of gratuitous and unnecessary humiliation? Or the cut in which Charlie’s best (and only) friend, Liz, asks him to chew his food “like people”, even though he knows that his compulsion is a disease, reinforcing again the idea that Charlie is a creature? Perhaps Aronofsky thought the scenes would add to the dramatic charge of the story or Charlie’s arc, but in the end, that’s not what it turned out to be.
Speaking of mistakes, in the midst of all this, the narrative also addresses a religious issue, which it tries to deal with in more depth, but fails miserably, weaving superficial criticisms, which have already been worked on in several other works, and which seem somewhat lost. in the middle of the main plot, which focuses on the relationship between Charlie and Ellie. Again, it is possible to see Aronofsky’s intentions with the theme, however, the director’s intentions do not reach their targets and do not contribute much to the final result of The whale.
In short, The whale it even has promising moments, but its negative points, especially in relation to its own protagonist, undermine the experience provided by the narrative, which could have done much more than it ended up doing.