Tag Archives: mother!

The Whale

21 Dec

Isolated and literally heartbroken, Fraser’s character carries weight of stagey drama

By Tom Meek, Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Director Darren Aronofsky, a decidedly deft cinematic craftsman, has taken some deep dives into personal torment: “Requiem for a Dream” (2000), “Black Swan” (2010) and “The Wrestler” (2008), to name a few. Here he’s back digging into that all-consuming inner turmoil, but his visual verve – the thing that brings that internalized struggle to the viewer – is missing, emasculated and eradicated by the narrative’s format. Based on Samuel D. Hunter’s 2013 play about a 600-pound recluse struggling with his place in the universe, “The Whale,” as adapted by Hunter and framed by Aronofsky, feels pretty much like a play with the camera perched on the edge of our protagonist’s living room, where nearly all the action takes place. That makes some sense, since Charlie (Brendan Fraser) can’t really get off the couch without the aid of a walker, cane or other hoists.

It’s a game go by Fraser, who put on weight for the part (with the final 300 pounds coming from the obvious use of prosthetics) and was last seen with ample heft as a baby-faced gangster in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” (2021). Much is asked of Fraser in “The Whale,” and he responds convincingly, conveying a troubled yet compassionate soul with more than his share of emotional vulnerability. Charles teaches an online writing class (never using his camera for the video sessions), pushing students writing essays to really dig down and say something from within, not just check the boxes of an assignment. Visiting Charles frequently are his estranged daughter (Sadie Sink, enjoyably nasty, if only two-dimensionally so), his nurse (Hong Chau, last seen being far less compassionate in “The Menu”) and a young religious missionary seeking a soul to redeem (Ty Simpkins). Along the way we learn the reason for his daughter’s vindictive state: Charles abandoned the family for another man, and because that didn’t go so well (the details are never fully explained), Charles fell into a deep depression, with food as his only solace. We’re also told by his nurse that Charles’ blood pressure is through the roof and that he’s suffering mini heart attacks at regular intervals but won’t go to the hospital – another nagging snag to the plot.

The title of the film (in theory) is not a reflection of Charlie’s appearance, but a reference to a cherished essay about “Moby Dick.” This dicey fine line has sparked some backlash, and perhaps deservedly so, if not for the title then perhaps for scenes of consumption as Charles folds a whole pepperoni pizza in half and snarfs it down in fast, carnivorous chomps, or his nurse enabling him by bringing him meatball subs that he eats off the crest of his chest. The scenes are nearly as look-away worthy as those in “Bones and All.” Still, there’s palpable love for Charles and his quest for redemption, and all the threads do converge emotionally in the end, even though it feels somewhat manufactured. And that’s another changeup from Aronofsky – clean clarity, not provocative chaos (as in his 2017 film “Mother!”). The bland, matted cinematography takes some zip off, but Fraser, clearly committed, carries much, and the supporting cast do their part.

Viper Club

5 Nov

‘Viper Club’: ER nurse mother does all she can when her son got missing, but that isn’t much


Image result for viper club

With “A Private War” on its way – about a journalist in the field abroad and the dangers she faces – “Viper Club” might just be an hors d’oeuvre for those hungry for such an unsavory endeavor. The film’s rote: A mother (Susan Sarandon) with a freelance video journalist son (Julian Morris) wrestles with uncertainty when he goes missing. Helen’s no weepy victim; she’s an ER nurse in an New York hospital who knows how to deal with trauma and hold it together inside. It’s she who tells the emotionally sputtering floor doctor how to tell parents their child didn’t make it after a school shooting – for which he receives a face slap.

At first Helen is comforted by the efforts of the FBI and NSA, but then they become aloof, evasive and want her to keep it mum. She wants an exchange like the infamous one for Bowe Bergdahl, but the agency says her son is not military. Frustration mounts and at work Helen gets her wings clipped for providing extra medicine to a comatose girl. She’s on the verge of breaking when Sam (Matt Bomer), a colleague of Andy’s, shows up and tells her how she can buy Andy back through the right channels. Sam’s so squeaky clean and certain of the process that you feel it’s all too good to be true, but Helen, desperate, goes all in.

It’s not a very uplifting film by any regard, but it does capture the frustration and isolation of such a sad and dreadful situation. The film also underscores the state of journalism, where freelancers hit the field without insurance or protection, just a loose cabal of supporters sewn together by necessity and without a net of their own. The film, directed by Maryam Keshavarz, has a made-for-TV sheen to – it is, in fact, a YouTube-backed venture, and the setting too is quite narrow: Besides a few blurry images of  war footage, most of the action takes place in Helen’s apartment or the white, bright, bustling ER ward. For the most part, we sit with Helen, tortured as she is and wishing something more would happen.


15 Sep

‘Mother!’ Is A Provocative, Swirling Contemplation On Our Relationship With The Earth

Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from "mother!" (Courtesy Paramount Pictures via AP)closemore

Biblical allegories and weighty world matters abound in Darren Aronofsky’s latest tempest of anger and wonderment that takes mankind to task. Part horror story, part existential ponderance and ever doing cinematic backflips, “mother!” is a movie that certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But those who see it are certain to be held rapt from the very first frame to the film’s fiery crescendo.

Things begin serenely enough as we catch up with a young woman immersed in restoring a grand country manse, where there no cell service and nothing but trees and grass as far as the eye can see. The woman is never identified onscreen, but called “Mother” in the credits — and Jennifer Lawrence carries her heavy emotional burden well.

Her selection of earth tones to plaster the walls is of no coincidence. She tends quietly to these finishing aesthetics as her husband (Javier Bardem), identified in the credits simply as “Him,” broods about struggling to reboot his creative juices. He’s a beloved poet who’s been blocked since the death of his previous wife and is wildly possessive of the crystalline shrine he has erected in his study to memorialize her.

His aloof peculiarity strikes a chord early, but then again he’s a creator and, as with anyone whose artistic process breeds success, idiosyncratic methods often get overlooked. Then “Man” (Ed Harris) shows up, believing the stately octagon shaped estate is a B&B. The two men get bombed as if they’re old friends and later, Man wretches up an organ. Then there’s that troubling picture of Him that Mother finds in Man’s bag. Continue reading