The Whale (2022)

The Whale (2022)

Needlessly cruel, nakedly manipulative, and inescapably stagy, The Whale is a deeply unserious movie



United States of America
Allison Altman, Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau
117 min


Unbelievably, this stoops even lower than its painfully crude title.

What it's about

On his figurative deathbed, a reclusive, severely obese man attempts to make amends with his estranged teenage daughter.

The take

At one point in The Whale, Brendan Fraser’s Charlie —  a morbidly obese, reclusive teacher — describes an act of abject cruelty as “not evil” but “honesty.” Darren Aronofsky seems to believe the same about his movie, but alas, he's gravely misled, because The Whale is flooringly glib. From the outset, the film actively and incessantly tries to choreograph audience disgust for Charlie, all so that it can pull off a manipulative “he’s human, actually” swing later on — a “twist” that won’t work if you, you know, already accept people’s humanity irrespective of their appearance. 

Cinematography, makeup, and score all conspire to paint Charlie as grotesque: the camera laboriously over-emphasizes his size and mobility issues, while histrionic music chimes in to frame trivial moments (like Charlie reaching to pick something up from the floor) as grand, tragic dramas. Even if you ignore all its needless cruelty, The Whale — which is adapted from a play — can never shed its stagy origins: the writing frequently reaches for transcendence, but its efforts are as subtle as its evidently retroactively-shoehorned-in-title. If it’s as sincere as it purports to be, this is one of the worst movies of recent years, and if it’s not — which is almost preferable — then it’s a landmark exercise in trolling.

What stands out

Fraser and Hong Chau (as Charlie’s friend and carer Liz) are the only redeeming elements here. Though they’re hamstrung by the film around them, they make up for at least *some* of The Whale’s galling disingenuousness with the sincerity of their linked performances (Charlie and Liz are united by grief for someone from their pasts, and seem bound to live through that painful experience again as a result of Charlie’s rapidly failing health). In a movie that nakedly reaches for emotion every chance it can get, these two performances stand out as the only parts that genuinely earn it.


Thanks for this review. In a sea of praise, I’m left baffled as to how anyone could enjoy this film.

Bad review.

I would agree with mist of the comments, I really fail to see how (maybe intentionally) you completely miss the point of this story. Either that, or you really are the troll yourself, and shouldn’t be reviewing movies as another poster said.

I think you feel for the character from the beginning. I did. Maybe the issue is you, not the movie.

You should probably not be reviewing movies. Your review, with diction common to all pseudo-intellectuals, is more telling of the review author than of the movie itself.

You say the movie paints Charlie as grotesque, and the twist is that he is a human after all. However, if you truly came to this movie without bias, you would not have precieve the filmmakers’ intention as such. The movie portrays him as a stalwart optomist, who is consumed with regret. His coping mechanism has resulted in every day tasks becoming monumental feats. If you believe this elicits contempt rather than sorrow and sympathy, perhaps you should examine your state of mind.

This was an honest and compassionate movie, and I hope other audience members can, unlike you, check their fat-phobic biases at the door.

By the way you’re a bad critic it you can’t accurately summerize the movie in one sentence. It’s a movie about regret and a Hail Mary at redemption.

Dreadful movie

Tell me you’ve never read Moby Dick without telling me you’ve never read Moby Dick

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