The Whale

Fraser shines in a lackluster story

A morbidly obese, reclusive English professor (Brendan Fraser) who conducts his classes on Zoom with his camera off tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter (Sadie Sink) whom he abandoned years ago.

Fraser took home a Best Actor Oscar for this riveting portrait of a severely broken man, showing however painfully the despair, the hope and the big, overburdened heart behind his repulsive appearance.

The director is Darren Aronofsky, who impressed with Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan but has stumbled recently with Noah and Mother!. The screenwriter is Samuel D. Hunter, adapting his own play.

Chamber dramas don’t get much more intense, and it’s well worth seeing for the superb acting. Hong Chau got an Oscar nom as his nurse, and Samantha Morton appears briefly as his angry ex-wife.

But on the whole, this just doesn’t seem to be in Aronofsky’s wheelhouse. It’s somehow allegorical to Moby Dick, a novel frequently mentioned in the movie (he’s a creative writing teacher), but the connection is thin and apparently meaningless. And the grandiose ending rings false. (117 min)