The Brenaissance has begun or, in other words, let’s hold on to the bucks because the resurgence of Brendan Fraser with ‘The Whale’, the new film by Darren Aronofsky, shows that the actor still has a lot to offer. Remembered by all thanks to blockbusters like ‘The mummy (The mummy)’ or ‘Journey to the center of the Earth’, and comedies for all audiences like ‘George of the jungle’ or ‘Looney Tunes: back in action’, Fraser he rises from his ashes to bring us the role of his life, the role for which he will be remembered. But this renaissance is not being easy, since the troubled trajectory that Fraser has suffered for many years is well known, including traumas such as depression, serious injuries, several operations, sexual harassment and a dramatic divorce. “My mother did not raise a hypocrite”, were the words of the actor when announcing that he would not attend the Golden Globes Gala due to his painful past with the industry. Gala in which, by the way, Austin Butler snatched the award for Best Actor in a Drama for ‘Elvis’, although Fraser took it at the Critics Choice Awards.
However, all the quarrels that Fraser could have with Hollywood or with his own past seem to have faded into the background after the excellent reviews that ‘The Whale’ has been receiving on its tour of the Venice and Toronto festivals. Throughout the world, the new Aronofsky has been praised over and over again; Which doesn’t happen that often. The North American director has made some of the films that have most polarized the audience in recent years, becoming loved and massacred by both the public and critics.. The most obvious case is ‘Mother!’, that wild psychological thriller about motherhood, but she has also had the opportunity to argue with films like ‘Requiem for a Dream’ or ‘The Source of Life’. Even so, it has also had success with more commercial films, which have had a presence in the awards race and have generated decent collections, such as ‘The Fighter’ or, of course, ‘Black Swan’.
Within Aronofsky’s filmography we find similar patterns. Generally, the main character tends to get entangled in his own web of lies and traumas, to the point that those fears end up taking an almost tangible form that drowns him. It is then when the surreal world begins to devour the real world and the distinction between the two universes blurs. In ‘The Whale’, although there is no paranoid and invasive mental underworld such as in ‘Pi, faith in chaos’, there is a latent agony. In this case, it falls to Charlie (Fraser), a literature professor who is morbidly obese to the point where he can barely move. His movement is reduced to a walker, a laptop and the small living room of his rented apartment. There the members of his very small circle of family, friends and acquaintances come and go, without failing to emphasize the tremendous loneliness to which the gigantic professor finds himself doomed.
‘The whale’ is a film of closed spaces, dialogues and interpretations. Its theatrical nature comes precisely from the homonymous play by Samuel D. Hunter, author who has also been in charge of the script, adapting it into a feature film. Perhaps because he was the author in the first instance of the original material, the resulting script is tremendously compact, solid. The revelations follow one another organically, the twists in the script seem natural and logical with respect to the development of the characters themselves. Aronofsky takes his time to establish a story that occurs exclusively in a single place (almost a subgenre in itself, as shown by ‘The Rope’, ‘A Wild God’ or ‘The Hateful Eight’, for example), and gives it the necessary importance to the spaces and the staging of the depressing apartment. The camera masterfully moves in the few meters where the action takes place, making the most of the depth of the shot and the position of each narrative agent with extreme intelligence.. The director measures his steps to the millimeter using wonderfully written characters.
Starting with Fraser himself, who thanks to his makeup and his prosthetic suit manages to create extremely uncomfortable moments, unpleasant to watch and ugly in its most conceptual sense. The character poetically matches the physical and mental decline that the actor himself suffered some time ago, elevating the message and causing a kind of magical coincidence that only makes the role even more memorable.. And he is not alone. Sadie Sink, one of the icons of this new wave of generation Z interpreters thanks to her role in ‘Stranger Things’, plays the electric and disobedient Ellie, daughter of Charlie, whose permanent anger has a clear and understandable reason for being. that the viewer will discover little by little; Hong Chau (who we have recently seen as the relentless chef’s assistant in ‘The Menu’) is Liz, Charlie’s nurse and one of the professor’s few remaining friends, she acts as a voice of conscience escaping from the cliché that supposed to be the friendship concerned about the health of the protagonist; and finally, Ty Simpkins (the famous kid from ‘Iron Man 3’ and ‘Insidious’) is a young missionary who goes door to door preaching the word of the Gospel and trying to save the souls of whom he meets on the street. .
Corseted in a square format, ‘La ballena’ exudes classicism on all four sides. It is a pure and hard melodrama, with very little space (literally and figuratively) for everything that is not self-blame, regrets and stabs from the past.. However, there is also a powerful argument against, of course, fatphobia (with plenty of examples of how people with obesity are prejudged and discriminated against) and existential pessimism. The director masterfully combines his specific formal aspect with a precious subtext that emerges as the plot progresses, until reaching a final climax that is much more epic than one could argue.
Dodging the word of the Lord
‘The Whale’ revolves around redemption and second chances. Charlie misbehaved with his family and neglected the relationship he had with her daughter, until she suddenly comes back from her and the past explodes in her face. His need to reconcile with his daughter in the face of what could be her last days pushes an (already) very good person to believe even more in the goodness of people. A faith in humanity that seems unshakeable (and which is so reminiscent of the stoicism displayed by a character like Peter Parker/Spider-Man in his comics) will have to face the toughest of challenges: trying to reconcile with your daughter. The greatest virtue is found, however, not so much in its theme or conclusion, but in its process, using literature as the central axis (emphasizing books like Moby Dick and The Bible for obvious reasons) on which all the subtext revolves. of the movie.
And it is that, despite the importance of the Catechism, Aronofsky tiptoes through a subject as tricky as religion; is more restrained. It has been a recurring theme in his work, whether it’s something radical like ‘Mother!’ or something more commercial like ‘Noah’, but the filmmaker exposes it enough so that it has the necessary importance in the story without eating up the general discourse or falling into empty Manichaeisms.
We must not fail to highlight the occasional cruelty on the viewer exerted by Aronofsky’s film. Without being gimmicky, since it shows its cards very well from the beginning and plays them wisely, ‘The Whale’ does sin at times as a tear gas, something inherent to the genre whose limit is so subtle that it can surface with the greatest of facilities. It’s something like emotional pornography that plays with the heart of the viewer and twists their senses until they cry uncontrollably. And she succeeds, of course. At least for which he writes.
The best: Brendan Fraser will be remembered for this. Darren Aronofsky’s dirty staging and use of spaces. All interpretations.
Worst: The thunderous melodramatic sentimentality that can drown out its gigantic scale.