The Whale (2022): A Win for Acting, But a Loss For My Sanity

“The Whale” is directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Mother!) and stars Brendan Fraser (The Mummy, Crash), Sadie Sink (Stranger Things, The Glass Castle), Hong Chau (Downsizing, The Menu), Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3, Jurassic World), and Samantha Morton (John Carter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). “The Whale” is based on a play by Samuel D. Hunter, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. This adaptation is about Charlie, an educator who teaches college courses online. As a result of losing his boyfriend, he has become reclusive and unhealthy to a point of great concern. Meanwhile, he attempts to reconnect with his daughter. Said daughter happens to be an individual he has not seen in person in years.

If I have seen a trailer for the “The Whale,” I would confirm it. But unless I missed it at a screening or I saw it once and could not retain it, I have yet to watch any marketing for “The Whale.” All I have heard about “The Whale” is that Brendan Fraser is great and he should be in the conversation for an Oscar. I may not be adding anything fresh by saying this, but he absolutely should be in said conversation.

That said, it should come as no surprise that my first positive with “The Whale” is that Branden Fraser’s performance is fantastic. I believed just about every second of what Fraser did on screen. In fact, if you want me to be frank, all the performances in the film are great. There are not many characters in this film, therefore everyone in the cast gets a chance to shine. Everyone from Brendan Fraser as Charlie to Sadie Sink as Ellie, Charlie’s daughter who had lived alone with her mom for years. Hong Chau is also great as Liz, a nurse who is the closest thing Charlie has to a friend. Every performance either floored me, compelled me, or at times, made my skin crawl.

Sadly, that last part of my statement, which in this case, is used as a positive, is something I would also use as a negative. This film emits a particular level of discomfort to the point where I do not see myself watching it a second time. The actors all do a great job in this film, and I mean everyone. Even a backseat character like Dan the Pizza Man, played by Sathya Sridharan, had my attention. The problem is the screenplay. The dialogue at times is cheesy, almost anger-inducing. The story itself has its ups and downs, but if there was not a part that felt oddly unhinged, there was one that came off as surprisingly predictable. Some of the characters themselves, despite being performed well, are not likable.

Despite what I said about Sadie Sink being a highlight of the film in terms of her performance, her character, Ellie, felt mean-spirited to the point of resembling a cartoon. If she gave off any particular vibe, she reminded me of Lil (Ariel Winter) from “The Last Movie Star,” another A24 movie I cannot recommend. From the first scene, Ellie starts off as an emotional wreck and this barely changes. There is a moment in this film where Charlie is struggling to move and Ellie just storms out the door. Sure, if you watch the scene, it is an early moment in the film where the two characters are not on the best terms, but regardless of how one feels about another personally, I do not see how Ellie could just leave. In this moment, Ellie just stands at the door, watching her father struggling to get off the couch, all the while knocking down a table. I am sorry, you lost me. What did she think, her father was putting on an act or something? Either way, in regard to Ellie, it gave me a terrible first impression.

Hong Chau gives a multi-dimensional performance as Liz. At one moment, she is frustrated at Charlie for refusing to go to the hospital, but in a split-second, her mood, believably, changes to that of someone with a warm heart. Chau’s sudden transitions feel seamless and do not interrupt the flow of the film whatsoever. Unlike Ellie, Liz is a somewhat respectable character and I felt attached to her, partially because she was a properly utilized voice of reason. Although if you want me to be real with you, if you want another Hong Chau film from this year to watch that is ten times better, do yourself a favor and skip “The Whale” and go watch “The Menu.” You will thank me later.

I do not mind depressing movies. Films like “Manchester by the Sea” stands out for how effectively its cast encapsulates a sense of unease throughout most of the runtime. “The Whale,” much like “Manchester by the Sea,” has a fantastic cast who play their characters to the best of their abilities. But in “Manchester by the Sea,” there are better characters and glimmers of entertainment that make the movie worth watching. “The Whale” is a film that tries to come off as depressing, but from my perspective, I see it as more frustrating than depressing. Because while the characters are depressed in “Manchester by the Sea,” I found myself enthused with the context of various scenes. As sadistic as this may sound, I enjoyed watching these characters going through their pain. I did not think it was a perfect movie, but it is certainly a watchable one. Unlike “The Whale,” I could see myself watching “Manchester by the Sea” another time. I have not done so since theaters, but even so, I could see myself putting it on the television in the future.

I have not seen the play which this film bases itself upon, but I could honestly imagine that is probably the better format for a story like this. Again, the performances carry the film, and I imagine that in a play version, they could be just as riveting. In addition, it is also set in one location, with most of it being set in Charlie’s living room. Sure, there are some moments that take place outside, but they are nevertheless within the confines of Charlie’s apartment. It is not like movies have not done the “one location” thing before, but even so, it provides an intimacy that would probably work best on a stage. Besides, you would might not have to change stuff around from one scene to another. Although I do like how the film was set in a 4:3 aspect ratio, as that adds to an intimate vibe in which the movie will occasionally nail.

In the end, “The Whale” is a lackluster story with annoying characters that feels somewhat surface level in regards to how it handles its serious subject matter. I could definitely see this film being a subject in acting classes, but that is one of the few notable things I can say about it. If it were not for Brendan Fraser and others in front of the camera carrying this film, it would probably not even be worth talking about. The acting is easily the best thing about “The Whale.” But just because you have great performances does not always mean you have a great narrative. My least favorite film of 2021, by a long shot, “Music,” has a pretty solid performance by Kate Hudson. But it is also a film that I would also consider terrible in addition to being downright offensive. While I would not consider “The Whale” to be as horrible as “Music,” it is not as good enough to give a second watch anytime soon. I should have left the theater crying out of sympathy for Charlie, but instead I left angry over the film’s final moments and how the writing nearly gave me a headache. I am going to give “The Whale” a 4/10.

“The Whale” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! To be frank, I do not know how many people are going to see “The Whale” by the end of the year. Although I am aware of another movie that has already earned a couple hundred million buck at the box office that a lot of people did see instead. And yes, I saw it too. For those who want to check it out, I have linked my review for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which coincidentally is another “whale” movie. If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Whale?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Brendan Fraser movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!


The Menu (2022): Phenomenally Mouthwatering and Jaw-Dropping

“The Menu” is directed by Mark Mylod (Succession, Game of Thrones) and stars Ralph Fiennes (The LEGO Batman Movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Mad Max: Fury Road), Hong Chau (Downsizing, Big Little Lies), Janet McTeer (Jessica Jones, Ozark), Judith Light (Who’s the Boss?, Dallas), and John Leguizamo (Super Mario Bros., Ice Age). This film follows a young couple, who are just two of the many people who partake in an expensive outing at Hawthorne, where food meets art. What is supposed to be an extravagant dining experience turns into a night of mayhem where the tension never ends.

If I had a dollar for how many times I ended up seeing a trailer for “The Menu” during a screening at the theater, I could probably at minimum, pay to see this movie at matinee price when it came out. Although I did not mind seeing this movie advertised a whole ton. Because it had a lot of things going for it. You have a stacked cast including Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy. The concept, while it reminded me of other stories, came off as one of the more original ideas of 2022, and it looked like an okay mix of comedy and scares, kind of like one of my favorite movies of the past five years, “Ready or Not.” At the same time though, while the trailers do show a bit in regard to what the movie’s about, one of the first positives I can give to the movie, in addition to the marketing, is that despite being hammered with the trailers, there were plenty of surprises to be had. I had the privilege of getting to see this film with a big crowd the day before public release, and I had no regrets going.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can easily say “The Menu” is one of my favorite movies of the year. And in a year that has been chock full of fantastic horror, this may be my favorite film in its genre. More than “Smile.” More than “Barbarian.” I reviewed both of those movies about a month ago, and I said the exact same thing when talking about those. If there is any genre that I think is the clear winner this year in regards to film, horror takes the cake. Much like cake, “The Menu” is a deliciously attractive and satisfying time.

“The Menu” cements why I go to the movies. This movie is dark, twisted, yet fun. I had the time of my life laughing and gagging with a couple hundred other people.

Speaking of communal events, this movie showcases a group of people who are supposedly loaded with money. One of the best parts about this movie is that even though Hawthorne is full of… let’s just say snobby guests, the snobby characters never managed to once get on my nerves. In fact, seeing of some of these people on screen for whatever length of time they happened to be on provided for decent entertainment. Even though this movie has characters who went to an Ivy League school without financial troubles and business partners for example, all of them were fun to watch.

This movie jokes about the rich, the food service industry, and how artists endlessly strive to be perfect. With an endless spree of gags on these topics among others, this leads to brilliant exchanges and side-splitting moments. I cannot think of a movie this year, even in the pure comedy genre like “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” that is as funny as “The Menu.” I cannot remember the last time I have gone to a movie and laughed so hard that after seconds of chuckling, I felt a particular numbness running through my body for a split second. If I got any dizzier, I would have arguably needed a medical professional. This happened more than once during my experience.

All of the characters in “The Menu” serve their purpose and bring something to the table. While this movie’s batch of supporting characters are exactly what they are, minor, their respective actors all do a great job. Everyone from Judith Light as Anne, Janet McTeer as Lillian, and Rob Yang as Bryce delivered performances that arguably satisfied my cravings. One of my favorite members of the supporting cast however is John Leguizamo, who plays a Movie Star (Yes, that is the character’s credited name). Without giving much detail, we get some hints of his history as an actor that allow for some of the movie’s most entertaining and laugh-inducing moments.

Although I cannot forget about the two leads, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult. These characters, as we learn early on, are a couple. We see from the beginning that of the two, Tyler (Hoult) is the one who is clearly more invested in the dining experience whereas Margot (Taylor-Joy) is more or less just coming along for the ride. Many of Tyler’s lines are him either trying to get Margot to “blend in” or showcasing his worship for the establishment and its head chef. I thought having a character like one of Tyler’s personality made for added tension in a movie that already had plenty of thrills and chills. Margot, who was more than unfamiliar with Hawthorne, was likely in for some culture shock. And that was only the start of her journey.

Anya Taylor-Joy is not only great in “The Menu,” but it is the kind of great that makes me think she is easily in the conversation to become the next “it” actor of her generation. Not only is she mega-talented as she has shown from one role to the next, but she always manages to choose interesting projects. Even ones I do not particularly like such as Robert Eggers’s “The Witch” at least has some notable quirks. As much as the cast of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has me weary because of how many big stars are onboard instead of professional voiceover artists (although Jack Black seems to be perfectly cast), Anya Taylor-Joy’s presence gives me hope because of her current resume. “The Menu” is another solid addition to her ongoing list of wins. This movie involves a multitude of characters at once, but if this story belongs to anyone, it is Anya Taylor-Joy’s character of Margot. Therefore, I am delighted, although not surprised, that she killed it in this movie.

Again, the trailers for “The Menu” made it look like another “Ready or Not.” This makes sense given the film’s success and it also being under the Searchlight Pictures library. If I had to give a proper description to “The Menu” for those who have not seen it, I would describe “The Menu” as “Ready or Not” meets “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” You have an eccentric genius who is often the elephant in the room. There is a group of people who all gather to experience a literal food fantasy. And much like “Ready or Not,” the main character is a young woman who is different from everybody else despite attempts to fit in. Much like both movies, there is plenty of comedy (and horror if you count the tunnel scene in “Willy Wonka”) to take in. The film is a must see, especially with a big crowd in a theater. While this probably will not make “Wakanda Forever” bank, this film is worth watching and supporting. It is a definite must see.

In the end, “The Menu” is a phenomenal moviegoing experience and a hysterical ride from start to finish. The cast is great, the mix of horror and comedy is perfectly balanced, and overall, this is also well done from a technical standpoint. A lot of the food, even though it did not look like the first thing I would put in my mouth if I saw it in person, had an Insta-worthy feel to it. The shots and sets look as clean as can be. Some of the editing, without going into specifics, is perfectly timed with how the script plays out. I can only name one particular problem I have with this movie, but I am not going to go into it as it would dive into spoiler territory. This movie is only days old and I want the people reading this who have not seen this movie to go in as blind as they can. That said, “The Menu” is yet another win for Searchlight Pictures. You may remember I recently reviewed “The Banshees of Inisherin,” another Searchlight production. That is a movie I honored with high marks. I think “The Menu” is on the same level. Therefore, this is another win for Searchlight, and as far as I can see, moviegoing audiences. I am going to give “The Menu” a 9/10.

“The Menu” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, please check out some of my other ones! For example, if you want to see more comedy reviews, check out my thoughts on “Ticket to Paradise,” the recent romcom starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. If you are looking for more horror, go ahead and read my thoughts on “Halloween Ends,” the conclusion to the David Gordon Green series of “Halloween” flicks. Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Fabelmans.” That review should be posted later this week. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Menu?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the hardest you laughed at a movie this year? For me, while “The Menu” comes close, the definitive answer might be “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The shocks I experienced during that movie are on another level. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Downsizing (2017): More Like Upboring


“Downsizing” is directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) and stars Matt Damon (The Martian, The Bourne Identity), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Inglorious Bastards), Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Treme), and Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). This movie is about a guy who shrinks down after the realization that this action would change his life for the better.

I went to see this film with my mother, and both of us knew very little about it. I knew basically what I just described up above. Matt Damon plays a guy who at one point gets shrunken down. I found out a lot of things about this movie as it went on. For example, I found out the movie’s garbage. I also found out the people who are shrunken down go on and live in a tiny land. Another thing I also found out is that the shrinking was an idea to save the environment and the Earth from overpopulation. What’s another thing I found out? Oh yeah, and I found out the movie’s garbage! Allow me to explain the unbelievable boredom that you’ll experience watching “Downsizing.”

Have you ever watched C-SPAN and thought to yourself, what if something like this was full of fictional characters? No, this movie isn’t full of political discussions, but try watching C-SPAN for a number of minutes and try not to change to channel. Speaking of boring, have you ever read a terms of service agreement from beginning to end? This movie has one, it’s short, but if it were longer, that’s basically what this movie is. It’s a long terms of service agreement. Something you don’t want to look at, and in some cases, makes you wonder why you intended on signing up, or in this case, bought tickets, for what you’re experiencing. F*ck this movie!

This movie stars Matt Damon as the character of Paul Safranak. He and his wife decide at one point to shrink themselves down because if they do that, their lives will be better. They can live as large as a king, and work as little as Kim Kardashian. By the way, f*ck Kim Kardashian. Matt Damon gave a rather competent performance as his character. In fact, seeing Damon perform was one of the more redeemable parts of the entire film. There’s something about Matt Damon that makes you appreciate him. I thought his performance here was better than another stinker which came out this year, specifically “The Great Wall,” but it wasn’t enough to make a good movie.

I’m not even gonna get into the other characters. Because I don’t even care about them enough to talk about them! I almost fell asleep while watching this film, which I will say I’ve never done once during a movie while I watched it in the theater. Let me just say that Matt Damon’s wife is played by Kristen Wiig, there’s an Asian chick who doesn’t understand English that well played by Hong Chau, and there’s LITERALLY NOBODY ELSE that I feel should be talked about here in detail because I’d probably have to watch the film again in order to get information on them.

There are so many things that are wrong with this film. Aside from being a total borefest, there are tons of questions that sparked in my mind as I dredged through this atrocity. For instance, why the f*ck am I watching this? But also, how the f*ck is some of this s*it happening? While the film is logical in ways, it doesn’t have any noticeable physics errors for example, there are many questionable things that just come together to create one gigantic mess. As everyone gets downsized, literally all of their hair is shaved. Why?! Another thing that I questioned during the film is how all of these small people got a lot of their items. I mean, the movie never goes into it, but a lot of it is explainable. I’ve got a couple valid reasons in my mind. A big thing I wonder is how these folks get their money. Is money downsized? Are wallets downsized? Also, when everyone gets downsized, they’re naked. Therefore, they don’t have their credit card on them. Another huge question, does the government approve of financial downsizing? I don’t know when this takes place, but it has to either take place in the future or present day. By that logic, I imagine people would still be addicted to their phones. When one person shrinks himself or herself down, it’s a total life changer. Would phones suffer from downsizing? Yes, the downsized world would contain factories producing products like phones and everything along those lines. But why can’t you downsize products? This really makes me concerned about that money thing I just mentioned. I remember Matt Damon using a phone when shrunken down, but I can’t remember if it was one he had before the shrinking process. Also, since downsizing’s a life changer, I gotta say, that s*it doesn’t make any sense. Yes, you’re changing the way you live, not to mention where you live. Ultimately, you’re still the same person. The movie makes it sound like you’re never going to talk to the people you know again. Not only does Matt Damon talk to someone he knows who doesn’t shrink, but in general, how do you talk to people you can’t communicate with easily? Do it on the phone! You can still talk to your family on the phone! Also, once a person gets downsized, this process can’t be reversed. So they couldn’t make a separate machine for upsizing? Or make upsizing an option on the machine? At least say that there’s no way to do that! This movie is nothing but garbage!

I don’t have much else to say, but there’s this awesome pun given during the movie. Matt Damon is on the phone talking to one person in particular, which, yeah, more phone s*it. He says something to get the person to say “Don’t get short with me.” As terrible as this movie is, hearing that line might be worth the price of admission.

In the end, “Downsizing” sounds like an interesting movie on paper. A guy shrinking himself down to live a better life isn’t that bad of a concept, but this film not only bored me, but managed to make me question it more than I intended to. So for that, I wanted only one thing to shrink at this point, which was my anger. Unfortunately, it only grew as the movie progressed. F*ck this movie! I’m going to give “Downsizing” a 2/10. Thanks for reading this review, pretty soon I’m going to have my lists for my top 10 BEST movies of 2017 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2017. I’ve been working on those for quite a bit, and I can guarantee you that as of now, this movie made the worst list for sure! Stay tuned for more reviews, those countdowns, and more great content! I want to know, did you see “Downsizing?” What did you think about it? Or, what are some of the most boring movies you’ve ever seen? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!