Dylan’s Movie Review: The Whale

Senior Dylan Skaggs gives his take on the 2022 film.


Dylan Skaggs, Staff Writer

The Whale, released in 2022, and directed by Darren Aronofsky is one of the most unique movies I’ve seen this year. The Whale is based on a play by Samuel D. Hunter and follows Charlie, played by Brendan Fraiser. Charlie is struggling with chronic obesity, and it’s attached to feelings of grief and guilt that Charlie attempts to aid by connecting with his estranged daughter. The screenplay was heavily influenced by Hunter’s original work, and this inspiration is displayed in every aspect of the film. The characters’ dialogue and movements have an over-the-top presentation, reminiscent of the theatrics of the original work. All of these factors contribute to creating a very unique film, but that uniqueness doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good movie. 

The Whale’s best performance is Charlie–his character has a lot of depth. Charlie’s character depth is aided by Brendan Fraiser’s incredible performance. Frasier’s performance is unmistakably the best in the movie, and it makes any scene with Charlie a treat. Charlie’s Nurse is played by Hong Chau, and she does amazing. She plays an important role in the story,  to display why enabling those struggling with problems like Charlie’s is never going to help. However, Chau’s character never gets to move much farther beyond that role, and it left me wanting more from her character. 

 This feeling was something I felt for a lot of the side characters in the film, and I think it’s why none of the other performances felt nearly as good as Frasier’s. Charlie is a deep character with motivations and feelings that seem to be much more fleshed out, and it aided Frasier’s performance. The other characters lack the depth of Charlie, and it’s hard for actors to reach Frasier’s level with characters that aren’t as good. These side characters never reach Charlie’s height, and it makes some parts of the story not featuring Charlie feel boring. 

The screenplay’s inspiration from the original work is evident in the story’s structure. The camera only exists within the confines of his home. This creates a story structure that feels like a play. We exist in the set, and new characters come to Charlie’s home to interact with him. I think it’s an interesting perspective to take on writing a movie script, and although it’s been done before, I think it is something that sets The Whale apart from other movies. The format of film allows for the movie to go to completely different places that the play couldn’t reach, but it never felt like it made full use of the format. Limiting themselves to the boundaries set by the play creates a unique vision, but not necessarily a great movie.

With the combination of factors I’ve listed above, I think The Whale deserves a 7/10 rating. I think it’s a story with compelling themes, but didn’t utilize everything they had effectively. They had an intriguing play to draw inspiration from to create a wholly unique screenplay, but this screenplay lives too far within the confines of a play format. In some respects it’s a bonus, I was a big fan of the theatrical dialogue. However, in most other regards, I think creating a more original screenplay would have benefitted the movie.