It’s more than prosthetics. More than the comeback. Brendan Fraser’s work as Charlie in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale is a profound performance for the ages. The A-list star who brought us ‘The Mummy’ and ‘Encino Man’ goes beyond an actor’s calling and reveals the vulnerability of a broken, 600-pound man. Like Aronofsky’s resurrection of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (2008), Frase delivers one of the best performances of the year. The Whale will surely earn him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
The drama is a gritty, grumpy exploration of regret and addiction, written by Samuel D. Hunter, who adapts his play of the same name. Distributed by A24, The Whale tells the story of Charlie, an overweight gay man who reconnects with his estranged 17-year-old daughter Ellie (played by Sadie Sink) after marrying her and her mother for his younger male lover has left.
Fraser’s personality and admiration are as impressive as his popularity with fans worldwide. When the film premiered in Venice, as captured in a viral video shot by diversitythe actor broke down in tears after receiving a rapturous standing ovation for six minutes. The film’s North American debut in Toronto cements the 53-year-old actor’s place in the Best Actor Oscar nomination, where he starred alongside Hugh Jackman (“The Son”) and Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”).
But will he be the only contender from the film?
A former Black Swan directing nominee, Aronofsky has typically provided hard-hitting drama for the casual movie viewer. Although its actors have attracted attention (like Ellen Burstyn from “Requiem for a Dream”), it can often be exhausting to watch the author’s grim world-building. His direction on The Whale is among his most delicate. He doesn’t shame Charlie. We would be so happy if the Academy Director’s department would recognize his achievements.
Having taken every part of Netflix Season 4 Stranger Things to the extreme, Sadie Sink is no longer a trick pony. However, it might be difficult for her to enter the Best Supporting Actress race as she might share the votes with Hong Chau. As Liz, Charlie’s caretaker, the Taiwanese actress is another example of the explosion of AAPI talent in Hollywood. After missing the cut for Downsizing (2017) and being the best part of the independent feature film Driveways (2019), she presents a beautifully drawn woman damaged by her upbringing and relentless in ensuring Charlie’s survival.
An adapted script name for Hunter will depend on the overall reaction to the film. At times the film feels very much like a theatrical play, squeezing in big dramatic moments between characters that probably work brilliantly on stage but don’t always burst in a movie. The viewer is a fly on the wall in the story as we witness Charlie’s quest for redemption and connection. If the academy can sense this, Hunter’s name will be secured.
The best picture will likely depend on how it sits alongside a barrage of “depressing” cinema up for scrutiny. Makeup and hairstyling nominations might be more likely.
The Whale landed solidly on TIFF, and before the screening began, Aronofsky’s introduction to his cast, particularly Fraser’s, was met with a long, enthusiastic round of applause. Seeing himself burst into tears while accepting a career tribute award in Toronto, he delivered a deeply moving speech on Sunday night. You can’t help but root for him. I think the academy will too.
https://variety.com/2022/awards/awards/the-whale-oscars-brendan-fraser-best-actor-sadie-sink-1235369024/ Oscar Odds for The Whale: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau