TORONTO — Brendan Fraser’s comeback function is as surprising because it will get.

It’s transformative for the actor. Not solely as a result of he performs a 600-pound man who can’t go away his small rural Idaho house in “The Whale,” which simply had its North American premiere on the Toronto International Film Festival, but in addition resulting from his fantastic tenderness. 

film overview

Running time: 117 minutes. Not but rated. In theaters Dec. 9.

Fraser wasn’t at all times so delicate. In the 53-year-old’s prime through the Nineties and aughts, when he starred in “The Mummy” motion pictures, “Monkeybone” and “George of the Jungle,” he had a comedy/motion star swagger and a whole energy grid’s price of vitality. He sprinted, he screamed, he swung, he slayed The Rock.

But his Charlie in “The Whale,” beautifully directed by Darren Aronofsky, is quiet, contemplative and lonely. And intensely shifting. Almost couch-bound, he makes a dwelling instructing a web-based essay writing course together with his laptop computer digicam turned off so nobody will see his face and physique. He tells the pizza supply man to go away the field exterior the door. He lives in fixed disgrace. Fraser seemingly at all times has a tear in his eye.

As Charlie in "The Whale," Brendan Fraser is doing some of the best work of his career.
As Charlie in “The Whale,” Brendan Fraser is doing the very best work of his profession.
Courtesy Everett Collection

Charlie hid himself away and started gaining weight after the premature loss of life of his youthful associate, Alan. His ex-wife Mary (Samantha Morton) and daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) need nothing to do with him as a result of he left them for his new man. Now, Charlie is on their lonesome save for a missionary customer (Ty Simpkins) who pushes the person to seek out God and a nurse pal named Liz (Hong Chau), who takes care of him and fruitlessly begs the cussed man to go to the hospital. She says Charile solely has a few week to stay.

A beautiful previous high quality that Fraser has not deserted in any respect is his sense of childlike marvel. As an grownup motion star, his characters had the broad eyes of youngsters making thrilling new discoveries. Charlie has that very same twinkle when he speaks of his teen daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), who loathes him and whom he desperately tries to reconnect with whereas he’s nonetheless alive. It’s in these form makes an attempt at a significant relationship that the actor does the best work of his lengthy profession.


There is an abundance of explanation why this film shouldn’t work. It’s based mostly on Samuel D. Hunter’s (additionally the screenwriter) wonderful play, and this form of heightened materials meant for the stage typically flops onscreen. Another theater-to-film adaptation at TIFF this yr, “Allelujah,” failed big-time. And, I think about, some outraged viewers will name Charlie — and Fraser’s casting — exploitative of obese individuals. It isn’t. At its core, “The Whale” is about grief and the seek for love.

Still, be warned, the expertise could be a particularly uncomfortable one. There are powerful, visceral scenes to look at — harking back to when Natalie Portman’s toenails began to fall off in “Black Swan.” Aronofsky, in spite of everything, doesn’t do “Bedazzled.”

Brendan Fraser is already scooping up accolades, including the TIFF Tribute Award for Performance.
Brendan Fraser is already scooping up accolades, together with the TIFF Tribute Award for Performance.
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However, the director and Fraser take troublesome subject material and work into one thing profound.

We by no means go away the small dwelling, however Aronofsky retains it ever-changing, mysterious, huge and cinematic. Not low cost. And whereas Hunter’s writing is a greater match for the stage (his “A Case For The Existence of God” was the very best play of final season), the director thrives on such exaggeration and type. It by no means comes throughout as dishonest.

Rob Simonsen’s fog-horn-like rating evoking a storm at sea (Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” performs a serious half within the film) additionally ups the ante.

Fraser, so good, takes what may very well be a joke, a flat tragedy, or perhaps a lecture about weight and imbues it with beautiful humanity. His Charlie is a deeply relatable particular person, who reminds us how considerably a single day can alter the course of our lives. It’s a testomony to the storytelling {that a} character so totally different from so many moviegoers could make us so powerfully ponder our personal lives. 

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