Intriguing material rendered a bit flat by uncertain handling...
Fictionalized account of the later years of gay film director James
Whale, who in the 1930's directed "Frankenstein" and "Bride of
Frankenstein". Here, Whale befriends his hunky, heterosexual
groundskeeper (with the hilariously butch name Clayton Boone) and
hearkens back on his glory years in Hollywood. Art-house hit was almost
immediately overrated by critics and audiences eager to praise
something that at least touched upon human frailties and emotional
conflicts. It does manage some moving moments, but Brenden Fraser's
working-class caretaker is such a clich.
Career, leisure, love, friendship, and life..this film covers it all.
Gods and Monsters is an independent movie in the best sense of the
word, in that it really engenders thought and emotion, and on many
The movie is a parable on the end of life, and the desperate need for
love when all one has is memories. By extension, its about the
importance of friendship as a support when romantic love is not
available. In addition, the film is one of the frankest looks at
homosexuality I've ever seen, dealing with the dynamics of a young
straight man dealing with a gay man whom he wants to befriend, and an
old gay man who has nostalgia both for a life of hedonism and a young
true love lost, in the most terrible of circumstances.
The movie also covers the notion of war, gallows humor, and the way
they instructed Whale and his Frankenstein movies. All in all, its
amazing the multiple intents of this film, but they're all woven
together into a tight script derived from a fictionalized account of
Whale's last days (the author gives his full blessing in the DVD
I'm surprised I missed this film in 1998, especially with the
incredible cast. I expected a low-budget docudrama, possibly campy,
moderately engaging, but its far more than that. The topic of
homosexuality is dealt with extremely frankly, but lovingly and
honestly, while not playing it safe either. It's a tribute to the
director that the plot line of Whale's sex life opens briskly, but then
illustrates the greater point that this is a man with a spirited past
who is breaking down. Gay or not gay, his sexuality was part of him
being alive, and its role as both recreational fun, and deep love, are
McKellan proves why he gets the raves, not just covering the gamut of
wit, sadness, irritation and anger, but nailing the idiosyncrasies of a
man hallucinating with nostalgia, and steadily losing his mental
Redgrave creates a character close to a cartoon, but she does not waver
from that character's reality, and is somehow instantly inviting.
Fraser is convincing as both the attractive draw to McKellen, but also
the lost young man, and the empathetic innocent who just wants to find
something tangible in life.
In the midst of all this, they give tribute to the amazing story of
Frankenstein, and the film flashbacks are where the film loses some
balance. The turn of McKellen/Whale being haunted by his own creation,
his life, is very thought-provoking. The story McKellen gives about his
young male lover dying in the trenches and it becoming a dark joke for
everyone is particularly heart-breaking. In a sense, the dark humor
that was supposed to help with the monster of war became the monster in
and of itself. As convoluted as this may seem, it actually really
provoked me to think deeper about the entire Frankenstein parable,
which is, of course, a masterpiece of story and character.
Finally, the film makes a very compelling point about the critical
importance of friendship and human contact. You get a lot in 106 mins,
and the climax is purely emotional. Fantastic..