Review – No Monstro Or Moby (“The Whale”)

Based on Samuel D. Hunter’s 2012 play (he adapted his own play into the screenplay), this film is about a 600lb man who has become isolated inside his home. Something tells me this isn’t going to be a comedy.

His online English students have never seen him and for good reason. Y’see, their teacher, Charlie (Brendan Fraser), refuses to show his face as he is a 600lb gay man suffering from congenital heart failure and never leaves the confines of his apartment. Barely able to walk around, his only occasional companion is Liz (Hong Chau), a no-nonsense and caring nurse that tries to get Charlie to a hospital before it’s too late. Entering into Charlie’s life one rainy day (it’s always raining) is Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a young door-to-door missionary touting his New Life Christian Ministry and getting his fair share of rejection.

Charlie also gets a surprise visit from his estranged daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink), a rebellious, manipulative, angry, and loathsome teenager that Charlie ends up paying for her time and redoing her English essays so she’ll pass graduation. Needless to say, theirs is a rocky relationship, even though Charlie is the very soul of positivity. As the long, rainy days go on, Charlie gets more visits from Thomas, Liz, and Ellie as his wheezing, coughing, and health worsens. In the third act, the shoe drops, and Mary (Samatha Morton), Charlie’s angry alcoholic ex-wife descends on his life to add more fuel to the fire.

In all this chaos, secrets are revealed about Charlie, his life with his past lover, his relationship with Ellie, Liz and Thomas having backstories of their own, and all of this fitting neatly into the overall narrative. Without a doubt, this is not an easy movie to get through, as screenwriter/playwright Hunter takes us on an emotional rollercoaster that delivers a devastating ending. I can’t imagine seeing this on stage somewhere! But as good as the script is, with its beautiful and heartbreaking words, what really sells this movie more than anything else are the actors and the direction.

Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan) knows how to capture pure raw emotion on screen and doesn’t hold back on letting us see the disturbing and gut-wrenching. Even I found myself cringing and wincing at times and I knew this was a movie! Like his past movies, his actors do all the heavy lifting and no one does that better than Brendan Fraser! Wearing a frighteningly real-looking prosthetic ‘fat suit’, his performance is the best of his career. He is nothing less than magnificent in depicting an emotionally sensitive, morbidly obese man. If he doesn’t get an Oscar for Best Actor, I’ll be pissed!

Then you have the others who are just as amazing. Hong Chau is incredible; balancing her anger and compassion for Charlie, and Sadie Sink (from Stranger Things) is totally believable as the teenager-from-Hell that you can’t stand! Ty Simpkins (that kid from Iron Man 3) is terrific as the traveling Mormon-ish minister, and the icing on the cake is Samantha Morton who, even though she has the least screen time, is awesome. Yes, this film does have some dollops of humor here and there to let you breathe but you best be bringing a box of tissues when you go see this movie. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did! I’m telling you now, this will get Oscar gold for sure!

**Now showing in theaters only 

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