According to Rolling Stone film critic Katie Rife, audiences of all body shapes and sizes should avoid seeing Brendan Fraser’s return to the silver screen, The Whale, because “it reinforces the notion that fat people are objects of pity who have brought their suffering upon themselves through lack of coping skills.”
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the film creator behind such esoteric and surrealist psychological thrillers as Pi and Black Swan, and adapted from the play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter , The Whale follows the struggles of Charlie (Fraser), a 600-lbman who after years of shutting himself inside and binge eating to cope with his guilt over leaving his family for his late mistress attempts to turn his life around, starting by reconnecting with his now 17-year old daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink).
Making its debut at the Venice Film Festival 2022, Aronofsky’s latest film has found a generally favorable reception amongst critics, as seen in both its taking home of the aforementioned event’s Premio CinemaSarà, 10th INTERFILM Award for Promoting Interreligious Dialogue, and Leoncino d’Oro awards, as well as its current 77% ‘Fresh’ and 64/100 ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (across 39 reviews) and Metacritic (across 22 reviews), respectively.
However, one critic who did not find herself pleased with her time with The Whale was Rife, who took to Twitter following her attendance of the film’s premiere to let her followers know that she could not “recommend in good conscience that fat people watch The Whale.”
“I can’t recommend that skinny people watch it either,” she said, “since it reinforces the notion that fat people are objects of pity who have brought their suffering upon themselves through lack of coping skills.”
Continuing with her objections, Rife asserted, “Massive red flags for EDs and fat phobia; the main character endures over an hour of the cruelest verbal abuse imaginable, and later tries to commit suicide by food. I have dealt with bulimia and binge eating disorder on and off for years, and found it incredibly triggering.”
“You can tell that no actually fat peoples were involved in the production b/c of a major plot point where the protagonist is dying, but refuses to go to the hospital even though he has money to pay the bills,” she further decried.
Her anger towards the film boiling over, Rife then declared, “The movie treats this as a combination of selflessness and suicidality, never considering the very obvious reason why a 650lb person would avoid doctors: IT’S CALLED MEDICAL FATPHOBIA YOU ABSOLUTE PRICKS.”
“Please excuse the typos, I’m really feeling like shit after that viewing experience,” she lamented. “There’s a scene where the main character drops a key and can’t pick it up, and PEOPLE WERE LAUGHING.”
Drawing her cautionary thread to a close, Rife, despite her numerous issues with the film, could not deny that “yes, Brendan Frasier is very good,” admitting, “most of the humanity/sensitivity/sympathy in the movie comes from his performance”.
The Whale makes its general theatrical debut on December 9th.