(director: Darren Aronofsky; screenwriter: Samuel Hunter/based on the play by Hunter; cinematographer: Matthew Libatique; editor: Andrew Weisblum; music: Rob Simonsen; cast: Brendan Fraser (Charlie), Sadie Sink (Ellie), Hong Chau (Liz), Ty Simkins (Thomas), Sathya Sridharan (Pizza delivery guy), Samantha Morton (Mary); Runtime: 117 ; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jeremy Dawson/Ari Handel/Darren Aronofsky; A24; 2022)

It’s a redeeming film about salvation, that has great performances from the talented cast and a superb one from Fraser.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Darren Aronofsky (“Pi”/”Black Swan”) directs one of his lesser good films, with too many contrivances and is too schematic to sparkle. It’s an agonizing chamber drama that’s set in the living room of the co-called Whale’s living quarters. Its adapted by Samuel Hunter from his own play.

The Whale is the 600-pound English online teacher on the zoom, Charlie (Brendan Fraser, in a fat suit”). It’s set during the 2016 American primary season. Charlie’s’s killing himself by eating too much and is too sedentary, which has become a major health concern, as he sits alone in his gloomy apartment in Idaho and does little but read or watch porn films.

Charlie answers a knock on his door from Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a naive young missionary from the New Life church, which preaches the acceptance of Christ as an End Times gateway to a better world. The breathing hard Charlie believes he’s dying and begs for help.

A crisis is averted by the arrival of his acerbic but loving health care worker friend Liz (Hong Chau), who knows how to deal with Charlie’s emergency. She lays on him that his congestive heart failure and rising-high blood pressure mean he’ll soon be dead. Because of a lack of health insurance he does not go to the hospital, which gets Liz angry.

Liz’s adopted father is a senior council member at New Life. She blames the phony church for the eating disorder death of her brother Alan, a former student of Charlie’s.

The gentle Charlie is guilt-ridden for a decade ago abandoning his eight-year-old daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) when he left his wife Mary (Samantha Morton) to be with Alan, and afterwards she got full custody of the child and prevented him from seeing her.

The misanthropic Ellie detests her mother and father, and is in danger of flunking out of high school. But relents in her hatred of dad when dad promises to leave her all his money and help her with her school work.

It’s a redeeming film about salvation, that has great performances from the talented cast and a superb one from Fraser.

The Whale