REVIEW: One ‘Whale’ of a movie – Santa Barbara News-Press

Brendan Fraser portrays a reclusive writing teacher with weight issues and more in “The Whale.”
It’s Mr. Fraser’s comeback role after his own, real-life health problems (including a knee replacement, operations on his back and repairs to his vocal cords). 
Well … what a comeback!
This is the best acting of Mr. Fraser’s entire career. It’s no wonder Mr. Fraser, who will appear at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, won the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Actor for the role.
And Oscar nominations are being announced early this morning. By the time you get your News-Press today, it’s likely that Mr. Fraser will be among the nominees for best actor. He deserves to win the Oscar. (This story will be updated at
Darren Aronofsky does an incredible job directing this movie, which is based on Samuel D. Hunter’s acclaimed play and takes place entirely in the home of Charlie, Mr. Fraser’s character.
Charlie, who teaches an online writing class, is dangerously overweight and eats excessively as he continues to mourn the death of his boyfriend. Charlie’s friend Liz (played brilliantly by Hong Chau) is a nurse who checks up on him and gives him plenty of tough love. 
As Charlie faces the reality that he’s dying, he wants to make things right with his estranged teenage daughter  Ellie (Sadie Sink) , who hasn’t forgiven him for leaving her and her mother Mary (Samantha Morton) when Elllie was 8 years old.
Ms. Sink plays Ellie with honesty and layers, showing the heart beneath her anger, the soul behind her mask. Ellie may seem, at first, to an understandably bitter teenager, but she’s much more than that, and as Charlie recognizes what makes Ellie wonderful, viewers will do so as well.
Most of the movie consists of Mr. Fraser acting with just one other person, and those scenes work wonderfully because Mr. Fraser and Ms. Sink or Mr. Fraser and Ms. Chau are listening to each other and reacting with fierce honesty. 
And during the one segment when Mr. Fraser isn’t acting in the film, the movie progresses with strength because of Ms. Morton’s acting chops in her scenes with Ty Simpkins, who plays Thomas, the missionary who visits Charlie. Mr. Simpkins is a good actor, but his best acting comes about in his scenes with Ms. Morton, who gives him much to react to and the time to make those reactions genuine.
The spirit of generosity among the actors, who obviously believe in this story and their characters, is a tribute to the cast and the director. And Mr. Fraser plays Charlie with just the right amount of calmness at times and the right amount of emotion at other times. Mr. Fraser’s acting is an incredible crescendo.
There’s just one way this movie could have been improved. As you watch “The Whale,” you’ll notice it’s very darkly lit, which certainly was intentional for the mood of this story, but at times that darkness is a distraction. 
This film could have benefitted from a bit more physical light to match the light that the outstanding cast put on their characters. Bravo and brava!
“The Whale”” is rated R and has a running time of one hour and 57 minutes.
The drama is playing at The Hitchcock Cinema & Pub, 317 Hitchocock Way, Santa Barbara, and Fairview Theatre, 225 N. Fairview Ave., Goleta. See for times. 
The film, which stars Brendan Fraser, is also screening at Regal Edwards Santa Maria, 100 Town Center East, Santa Maria. See
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