In a triumphant world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Darren Aronofsky’s film The whale received a seven-minute standing ovation tonight inside the Sala Grande. Star Brendan Fraser was visibly moved when his director hugged him as applause rang throughout the auditorium.
The psychological drama was met with a strong response throughout the day on Sunday with Fraser earning high marks for her lead turn. He plays Charlie, a lonely English teacher living with severe obesity, who tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one last chance at redemption.
Aronofsky directs from a screenplay written by Samuel D Hunter, based on Hunter’s 2012 play of the same name. Also starring are Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins and Samantha Morton.
In his review, Deadline’s Damon Wise wrote that Fraser’s “total performance…makes adjectives like ‘courageous’ and ‘fearless’ seem almost meaningless” and said The whale is “cutting the line to put an ever better Brendan Fraser at the forefront of the Best Actor race.”
Fraser himself called the role of Charlie “the biggest challenge” of his career, saying the character “is the most heroic man I’ve ever played because his superpower is looking for the good in others and bringing it out.” In that process, he is on his journey of salvation.”
When asked about his own roller coaster career, which saw Fraser as an action star in The Mummy Y george of the junglebefore retiring from Hollywood and followed by a recent comeback on television series such as The case and movies, including the next Moonflower Assassins, the actor sounded philosophical, “I looked different in those days. My journey to where I am now has been to explore as many characters as I can. I can’t wait to see how this film makes as deep an impression on everyone as it has on me.”
Today also marked the return of Aronofsky, returning to Venice after his divisive 2017. Mother!. First he staked his right on the Lido with The fountain in 2006, but it was the double whammy of The fighter Y Black Swan (in 2008 and 2010, respectively) that basically established Venice as the launch pad for the Oscars.
A24 releases The whale nationwide on December 9.