Monday, March 13, 2023

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky's adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play, The Whale. offers a unique interpretation of Moby Dick. Melville in the guise of Ishmael, offers so many boring chapters about whales to spare us from his own sad story. It’s a theme or leitmotif that runs throughout the movie. The divorced mother Mary (Samantha Morton) of the teenaged Ellie (Sadie Sink) has kept her from her father, Charlie (Brendan Fraser), because she wants to spare her Charlie's story and by proxy hers. Speaking of Ellie, it's not clear if she wants to “help or “hurt. “ She blows the whistle on a traveling evangelist Thomas (Ty Simpkins)  who has run away with the appropriately named New Life Church's money, but the result is not bad. Thomas is told it’s only money and welcomed back into the fold. The movie is about altruism and whether humans really care about one another considering all their selfish desires. “I need to know I have done one right thing with my life,” Charlie cries. That and his need to see his disturbed daughter as a fundamentally great person due to her honesty is selfish too. "Virtue signaling" is the term that's sometimes used to describe this need. So what's the verdict? Do humans care? The Whale is not the only movie about a person who eats themselves to death. There were a whole castle filled with them in La Grande Bouffe (1973) but that movie was a gratuitous existential act and here the perverse stuffing and subsequent obesity directly results from the pain of living. BTW, Obesity can be looked at as a form of padding, a protective defense. The Whale is controversial since it melodramatically pulls at one's heartstrings but so what, if you’re touched by Aronofsky's tortured characters? Brendan Fraser won the Academy Award for best actor for his "outsized" performance.

read "Diasporic Dining: Fast Food Inc." by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to Tim Hardin's version of "Bird on a Wire"

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