Brendan Fraser's The Whale Has Premiered, And Critics Have A Lot Of Thoughts About The Film

Before it was even seen by critics, The Whale was already generating Oscar buzz. The drama from A24 starring Brendan Fraser is the adaptation of a play about a 600-pound man trying to reconnect with his daughter. Along with Fraser, who has delighted fans by making a career comeback, the film stars Sadie Sink (Stranger Things), Hong Chau and Samantha Morton. Critics were impressed by the first looks at The Whale, but after the movie premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, they’ve definitely got a lot more to say.

Darren Aronofsky’s latest venture has already taken a step in the right direction, if it is, in fact, going to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The movie reportedly received a 6-minute standing ovation at its premiere, and Brendan Fraser is set to accept the Toronto International Film Festival's TIFF Tribute Award — an honor that is often followed by an Academy Award nomination. So let’s get to the reviews, starting with Games Radar+’s Jane Crowther. This critic rates the movie 4 stars out of 5, saying Fraser delivers a career-best performance, and the cast around him is equally as impressive: 

The Whale is Aronofsky's kindest work to date, a film that asks its audience to practice acceptance, understanding, empathy, and forgiveness. It unpicks wounds relating to parental abandonment, self-destruction, loneliness, marriage breakdown, and sexual orientation as well as the triggers and tribulations of self-medicating with food. In that, it’s a film that takes the specific and makes it universal. And in the wake of recent global events, it’s likely to prompt catharsis and blubbing for audiences.

Leila Latif of IndieWire grades the movie a B-, saying Brendan Fraser is the reason this movie works so well, as he’s able to deliver a performance both funny and devastating. The critic says: 

Without Brendan Fraser’s innate charm and ability to project gentle sadness through the slightest flicker of his huge blue eyes, The Whale wouldn’t have that much else going for it. Faultless performances from Morton and Chau illuminate complicated relationships with Charlie, a man at once lovable, frustrating, and dishonest.

While some critics aren’t super comfortable with the movie’s use of a fat suit, BBC Culture critic Nicholas Barber is impressed at the range of expression Brendan Fraser conveys. He rates The Whale 3 out of 5 stars, saying: 

It's rare to see prosthetic make-up on this scale outside of a body-horror movie, but it's so well done that the viewer comes to accept it within minutes. What's even more impressive is that, despite being encased in a mountain of rubber, Fraser is expressive enough to melt your heart. There's a remarkable nimbleness to his facial movements and a soulful gentleness to his voice, but it's his wide, pleading, hopeful blue eyes that make it hard to imagine anyone else being as captivating in the role.

Damon Wise of Deadline also notes that Brendan Fraser’s performance and Darren Aronofsky’s direction transcend the makeup. From the review: 

It’s a testament to Fraser’s incredibly soulful portrayal of Charlie that the make-up elements — notably his thinning hair, doughy face and bloated body — become almost invisible once the initial shock of seeing Dudley Do-Right in such terrible shape has passed. But it’s also a mark of Aronofsky’s acuity as director that Charlie never becomes at all freakish or monstrous…

Owen Gleiberman of Variety says the movie as a whole isn’t as strong as its leading actor’s performance, but for Brendan Fraser, The Whale deserves to be seen. The critic says: 

The Whale, while it has a captivating character at its center, turns out to be equal parts sincerity and hokum. The movie carries us along, tethering the audience to Fraser’s intensely lived-in and touching performance, yet the more it goes on the more its drama is interlaced with nagging contrivances, like the whole issue of why this father and daughter were ever so separated from each other.

The critics seem to be in agreement about Brendan Fraser and his reintroduction to Hollywood via this movie, so it will definitely be interesting to see what recognition comes from it. Audiences still have a while to wait before being able to catch this movie in theaters. The Whale is set for theatrical release on Friday, December 9. In the meantime, check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what else is coming soon! 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.