The First Trailer for ‘The Whale’ Has Breached

For months it feels like all of us in the online film community have been hearing about how incredible Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, particularly Brendan Fraser’s performance, is. It debuted at the Venice Film Festival in early September and the internet was ablaze with videos of Fraser tearing up while receiving standing ovations after early screenings. Those who got to see the film had nothing but good things to say about the film, solidifying the man who brought us George of the Jungle and Rick O’Connell as the favorite for Best Actor at the Academy Awards.

So naturally while the film was riding high and fans were clamoring for any scrap of content they could get from the film other than the lone frame of an overweight Fraser looking sad. So what did the typically reliable A24 do about it? Not a damn thing.

No freeze frames. No teasers. No trailers. Not even a free tip to Sea World included with every pre-sale ticket sold.

So what gives?

On the one hand, it’s a tried and true marketing ploy. By holding their cards to their chest they’re drumming up interest for the film by good, old fashioned curiosity and word-of-mouth. Is Fraser really that good? Is the film as good as Aronofsky’s previous films? How long can Fraser hold his breath under water? By simply giving us nothing the buzz for the film was unlike anything else remaining on the release calendar this year. The people at A24 are no dummies, they’re fully aware that this film’s release is sandwiched between Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water in addition to Thanksgiving and other releases. It’s also not exactly an easy story to sell the masses on. So by not showing us anything will it force people to go to the theater and see this highly buzzed film? If audience word-of-mouth is as positive as the critics have been, this will probably work.

The downside of their argument is by doing nothing A24 has let social media control the narrative around this film. While critics have been nearly universal in their praise of the film there has been a narrative out there surrounding inclusion and fat shaming. From what I’ve gathered, the film is about a man (Fraser) who abandons his family for his gay lover but following the death of his lover he attempts to reconnect with his daughter (Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink) while binge-eating himself up to 600 lbs. There are some out there who felt it was insensitive for a straight, fit man to play a gay man in a fat suit. So while the studio was basking in praise on the festival circuit a dialogue began brewing around the film and had people trying to cancel it before the trailer even dropped. However, the counterpoint to this argument is “How many 600 lbs gay actors are there that can pull off the emotional range for a role like this and turn a profit?” I thought director Darren Aronofsky said it best:

(Variety) “There was a chapter in the making of this film where we tried to research actors with obesity,” says Aronofsky. “Outside of not being able to find an actor who could pull off the emotions of the role, it just becomes a crazy chase. Like, if you can’t find a 600-pound actor, is a 300-pound actor or 400-pound actor enough?”

And Aronofsky worried that an actor with severe obesity would struggle with the demands of a grueling production schedule. “From a health perspective, it’s prohibitive,” says Aronofsky. “It’s an impossible role to fill with a real person dealing with those issues.”

It’s certainly a touchy subject though I feel Aronofsky and Fraser have handled it about as well as they can to this point.

And then today, roughly one month before its December 9th release, we finally go our first look.

And we got nothing. Nothing but landscape shots over somber music, quotes pulled from glowing reviews, and a close up crying Brendan Fraser. Nothing around the story, no action, and nothing from Sadie Sink and Hong Chau, both of whom are receiving praises for their work as well.

I admit, if this film didn’t have the buzz around it that it did, I’d probably have no interest in seeing this. I’m not even a big Aronofsky guy and outside of last year’s shitty No Sudden Move I can’t tell you the last time I saw Fraser on screen outside of Scrubs reruns on IFC.

That being said, I love the mystery surrounding this movie. I think its genius. A24 knows the people who want to see are going to go see it. Heck, it wouldn’t even be their first word-of-mouth hit this year: Everything Everywhere All At Once made over $100 million at the box office (though that one probably had a lot more mainstream appeal). I’ll be there to see it in theaters and by the time I get to the end of my popcorn I’m sure I’ll be able to re-fill it with tears.

The Whale opens everywhere on December 9th.

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