The good kind of Oscar bait, not a bait and switch. The anti-nihilist screed we need for our trying times.
The film opens with a banger, a way to reset expectations and start the long trek towards redemption, with literal elevation towards a fade to white.
The central character, a rotund compulsive eater with an extra obsession with a grade school essay on Moby Dick (hence the title), fills the screen whether deposited on a rickety couch, on standing hunched and shamefully over a rickety walker. He was always big, but losing the love of his life was the trigger for the depressed binge eating feedback loop.
His caregiver is a sassy diminutive nurse, exasperated with how much her patient does not give a fuck about his own health. It is later revealed that his lover was her brother, so it’s personal for her. Even worse is losing a family member because the rest of the family, Christian fundies who excommunicated him after he came out as gay. Our protagonist tried as much as possible to uplift him out of his religious upbringing, but it was for nought, he faded away before dying of suicide.
By accident, a cultist Christian fundamentalist wanders into his life, spreading the gospel of out Lord and Saviour Yahweh. Preaching to a fat slob doesn’t faze him, what really pushes his buttons in the revelation that he’s homosexual, and frolicked in the buff with other dudes, plus the butt stuff. He is genuinely worried the gays are all depraved and he is being solicited by the protagonist. Vade retro. There might be a possibility of matching him with the daughter, but it’s really the Whale’s story, all subplots are excised.
Yes, I forgot to tell you. Our protagonist teaches online classes, but puts all money away to give away to his daughter. She appears like a thunderbolt, and is about as friendly as one. Her demeanour and attitude are about as harsh and unpleasant as a teenager girl can get, without being jailed. Not even her own mother thinks of her as anything other than evil. Pure evil. Our protagonist is the one that keeps the flame alive, and he’s ultimately right, she is pure of heart, covered in grime.
Meanwhile, el mundo gira. The RNC convention rages in the background, Trump is not yet chosen to lead the US, while Bernie is smoking the competition in battleground states. Ah, those were the days.
This is good enough for baiting some nominations out of the Academy, but there’s even the metagame of having Brendan “The Mummy” Fraser playing the main role. From absolute Adonis, to Hade-ous blob of flesh.