We know Brendan Fraser through his movies like The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Bedazzled, to name a few from his long body of work. I like his work in Bedazzled, where Fraser is in multiple roles, paired with the beauty with a British accent Elizabeth Hurley. Fraser’s action-oriented movies, like the Mummy Series, do not showcase his acting chops to a great extent, but this humor movie – Bedazzled – has certainly shown his range.
The Whale – opens with Frazer teaching an online class on how to write. The anomaly is, while all the students are visible on screen, Frazer’s place on the screen is dark – for he has closed his laptop camera on the pretext that it does not work.
The reason for Frazer’s dark spot is that he does not want to show himself, for he has grown fat and ugly, and he fears his students will judge him cruelly in his abject sorry physical state. So Frazer knows he is practicing hypocrisy. On one hand, he is instructing his students to be real and authentic in their writings while he, as a teacher, is hiding behind a lie.
Frazer is guilt-ridden about his lies and also onetime in the past, he had had a same-sex relationship with a student for which he has abandoned his wife and daughter. His partner now dead and Frazer now alone to wallow. He comforts his guilty conscience by re-reading an essay, incidentally written by his rebellious daughter, who, in the essay, has trashed the book Moby Dick, a classic written in 1851 by Herman Melville.
Frazer identifies with the irreverential essay on Moby Dick by his daughter who, in her essay, has alluded that the author, Herman Melville, as Ishmael, has had a same-sex relationship with another character Queequeg, and the book is a guilt-trip by the author who tries to atone his guilt by the singular focus to search and kill a white Whale.
Frazer identifies himself with the subject of the essay, as it is true of his own same-sex relationship and he is as fat as a whale. Also, he finds the writings of his daughter coming “straight from the heart” with true feelings. He concludes this as true writing, which he conveys to his students finally after he opens his own camera and comes clean of his hypocrisy.
The movie ends with Frazer’s partial reconciliation with his family and daughter, and full disclosure to his students on how he looks on camera.
They show Frazer character as monstrously fat, probably a wonder of CGI or makeup or both. The belly protrudes from the body and droops. That looks real when compared to how fat people look. Contrast this with actors in many other movies who appear fat by wearing paddings underneath their clothes or costumes. Their fat belly appears blown out and up. This looks contrived and fake. Gravity works on everything, including a protruding belly.
The movie gets the looks and the atmosphere right. Appropriate to the subject of the story; the guilt, the abandonment, the lonesome existence, the immobility of Frazer, and the imminent doom of such a life and living, the art directors of the movie have created an air of gloom. Most of the shots are indoors and in low light. Even if when the camera shows the outside, it is just the porch or through the window – either way; the climate is heavy and dull.
With – The Whale – I think Brendan Fraser wants to turn a corner, away from actions and humor. His latest attempt successfully adds one more genre to his repertoire. It is a commendable attempt, not only by Brandon Fraser’s acting but also by all who helped in creating this movie.