‘The Whale’ is the redemption of Brendan Fraser

The whale (The Whale) is not an easy movie to watch. In many of his scenes he produces an uncomfortable feeling of disgust and pity. Charlie, played by Brendan Fraser, is caught between two well-defined boundaries. In his small apartment full of garbage and overweight, which prevents him from moving beyond the chair in which he spends a good part of the day. This writing teacher, who reads aloud to imagine the presence of another human being, is terrified of loneliness. But he knows nothing else.

As strange as it may seem, Brendan Fraser admitted on more than one occasion that in recent years and, especially, before the success of the DC series Doom Patrol, he felt the same way. A Hollywood pariah and in the midst of physical problems, his career was completely eclipsed.

In addition, Brendan Fraser went through a long series of personal conflicts, including a marital breakdown and a depressive process, which led him to total isolation. Also, to suffer a picture of obesity that made him feel repulsed by himself and that caused him severe self-esteem problems.

Brendan Fraser and his character, Charlie, shared at some point the same emotional suffering that is reflected in The Whale (The Whale). Director Darren Aronofsky commented on an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that obesity as a physical symbol of psychiatric conditions was something that took into account most of the film.

This is a subject that is rarely touched on in the cinema and which, in the case of The Whale, was a challenge that involved making the character look realistic. “One of my first calls after casting Brendan Fraser was to my makeup artist, Adrien Morot. I asked him: Can we do something that is realistic? Because if it’s going to sound like a joke, then we shouldn’t be doing it.” The director considered it crucially important that it was not a mockery. Much less of a publicity stunt.

Brendan Fraser faces his pain in The Whale

But it was Brendan Fraser who went through the biggest challenge. With a personal experience similar to the one he describes in the role, he had to face his own suffering by putting himself in Charlie’s shoes. In a E.W. interview, the interpreter was frank in admitting that doing so was also a way of closing a moment of pure pain in his personal life. Also accepting that it was a psychiatric and physical journey that led him to dark regions of his mind.

“Beyond the creative challenges was the material as a work. He is a man who lives alone, who regrets the choices he has made, and the ones that life has made for him, and in deep sadness, which he carries on his skin as a manifestation of the trauma he has endured. He could identify with that. It is important to remember that he is a human being, a person who deserves dignity and respect. While his body type differed from mine at this point, I have had my own fluctuations in body weight, but it was helpful to put the two together to create Charlie from an authentic point of view and bring him as close as it was safe for me. But, without a doubt, I had a deep understanding of Charlie in the midst of pain.”

brendan fraser

In the narration, based on a play by Samuel D. Hunter —who is also a screenwriter—, the character sinks into total isolation, which becomes harsher as time goes by. The story, half based on the writer’s, became a challenge when adapted.

Specifically, because Charlie is disgusted by his appearance. Aronofsky, in The Whale, delves into the conception of the body as a refuge. At the same time, what happens when that idea turns into a more twisted feeling. Capturing something similar on screen, without actually caricaturing, allowed both the director and the actor to reflect on the limits of the cinematographic story they wanted to tell. Fraser insisted that he be careful when showing the woes of morbid obesity on screen.

“I think those costumes, whether or not they are malicious, put a person living with a serious weight problem in quotes. That didn’t exist in Charlie’s design. He has mobility problems, he sweats profusely, he doesn’t look good, he doesn’t eat for pleasure, he has defects. He is someone who, despite all of these things, remains somehow eternally optimistic. He needed to make a decision about whether he just didn’t exist or leaned into what he knew mattered to him: books, literature, teaching and being an educator and extracting the truth and honesty from people as a form of redemption.”

brendan fraser

Charlie eats non-stop, despite the fact that he would like to contain the hunger caused by the stress that tortures him. But, in the context of the tape, the kilos protect you from pain. From the traumas of a life full of sorrows that he cannot overcome. During the first installment of The Whale, the script’s attention barely leaves the messy room where the character teaches classes. His face twisted with anguish, his greasy fingers holding the food. The absolute isolation in which he struggles to survive. Brendan Fraser insisted on the importance that it was the emotions of the character, and not just his appearance, that deepened the central message of the story.

La ballena (The Whale) is a realistic story about violence and contemporary fears

Charlie goes blind. He does not look at himself, nor does he allow anyone to look at him. He never shows his face to his students online or looks at himself in the mirror. “Sometimes, it’s like not existing,” says the character. In many ways he is a hostage to confinement in a small space, which the camera shows as a maze of rickety furniture and rubbish. Of his inability to move or regain control of his body. The character is a creature destined for misfortune. So miserable and unhappy that he analyzes his life “as a chain of worthless errors.”

La ballena (The Whale) is a collection of scenes about despair. Brendan Fraser brings a believable vulnerability to the character. In the hands of another actor, he might have been a pathetic man or just a disgusting figure.

But the interpreter, who also went through his own dark time, and which he considers necessary to show, understands the role from a powerful angle, because he had to overcome a very similar circumstance. Which allows us to understand the nuances of a physical disorder that is mixed with a psychological condition. His incarnation of a wretched spirit and pressured by the need to escape his emotional burden in The Whale is deep and adult. At the same time, one story within another.

Sadie Sink, The Whale

During the promotional campaign for The Whale, Brendan Fraser confessed that he identifies with Charlie more than he would like. Both are victims of sexual abuse and have suffered aesthetic violence. The one who was an idol of the nineties, was harassed in the field of the film industry, which ended up sinking his career. Later, a back injury caused him to gain weight and limited his ability to move. By the turn of the millennium, the actor was a man who, he admits, was “barely recognized” and who ended up being forgotten by Hollywood.

Aronofsky adds the experience of the actor to complete the optics of The Whale. Charlie, who lost his mistress, came out as an adult, and broke ties with his ex-wife and daughter, is an outcast. A broken man who finds in food a dangerous safe space.

The character suffers from all kinds of ailments, however, he cannot contain his compulsive greed. He was always “robust,” he says through tears, his eyes wide and terrified. But, in solitude, he is “like a white whale” about to be hunted for death or, even worse, for the most dramatic memories of him.

Step by step towards redemption

One of The Whale’s great attributes is that it never uses appearance as a mockery or as an emblem of shame. Both the script and the director’s point of view explore anguish through corporal self-punishment. In fact, the close-ups of Brendan Fraser’s face are the center of much of the most powerful sequences. In particular, when Charlie begins the journey towards liberation from everything that ties him to immobility, emotional and physical.

Brendan Fraser, The Whale

La ballena (The Whale), which recounts a week in character’s life, does not stop only in exploring the inconsolation. Slowly, Charlie understands that she can and has every chance to escape fear. Every conversation and presence erodes the layer of self-pity that confines him.

From the kindness of his friend Liz (Hong Chau), to the unique relationship that unites him with his teenage daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink). Step by step, Charlie goes in search of her identity. Beyond his suffering, the terror caused by what is on the other side of the door, the character finds that living is worth it. Even if it’s just a last fleeting effort.

The whale is a type of rebellion against beauty standards and the conception of aesthetics.

In an age obsessed with image, The Whale is a kind of rebellion against standards of beauty and conception of aesthetics. However, the tape focuses all its interest on one clear element: life is much more than the wounds of the past. It is an open door to the opportunity for recovery. Something that Charlie symbolizes better than any other character in recent cinema.

At the Critics Choice Awards, Brendan Fraser won the Best Actor award. In his acceptance speech, he reminded the importance of his own acceptance and made it clear that The Whale is a film “based on love”. An essential point that separates it from many others that ridicule or base their effectiveness on physical appearance as an insurmountable defect. On the contrary, it is a powerful plea for compassion. The most significant point of a production that explores the value of hope.

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