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Adapted and directed by Bill Condon from Christopher Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein,the film stars Ian McKellen in a sublime performance as the white-haired Whale, who is portrayed as a dapper gent and amateur artist prompted by failing health into melancholy remembrance of things past. Flashbacks of lost love, World War I battle trauma and glory days in Hollywood combine with Whale's present-day attraction to a newly hired yard worker (Brendan Fraser) whose hunky, Frankenstein-like physique makes him an ideal model for Whale's fixated sketching.
The friendship between the handsome gardener and his elderly gay admirer is by turns tenuous, humorous, mutually beneficial and ultimately rather sad--but to Condon's credit Whale is never seen as pathetic, lecherous or senile. Equally rich is the rapport between Whale and his long-time housekeeper (played with wry sarcasm by Lynn Redgrave), who serves as protector, mother and even surrogate spouse while Whale's mental state deteriorates. Flashbacks to Whale's film-making days are painstakingly authentic (particularly in the casting of look-alike actors playing Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester), and all of these ingredients combine to make Gods and Monsters (executive produced by horror novelist-film maker Clive Barker) a touchingly affectionate film that succeeds on many levels. It is at once a keen glimpse of Hollywood's past, a loving tribute to James Whale and a richly moving, delicately balanced drama about loneliness, memory and the passions that keep us alive. --Jeff Shannon
McKellen is greatly helped by the sharp, intelligent and surprisingly bawdy script he is given. (His expletive-ridden outburst at an aristocratic party lingers long in the mind.) He seems to relish too playing the dirty old man. The film takes great delight in numerous homo-erotic set pieces, most notably when Whale agrees to an interview with an enthusiastic Frankenstein fan on the sole condition that his interrogator remove an item of clothing upon each reply.
Lynn Redgrave proves a wonderful comic foil as Whale's housekeeper, tut-tutting his love of boys and grumbling over her insurmountable duties, yet clearly keeping a soft spot for her demanding employer.
This is no frivolous piece however. A real heart resonates throughout the script, and in the wonderful, generous interplay between McKellen and Brendan Fraser as his ex-marine gardener-come-model. Fraser's role is possibly the most difficult, and many a lesser pretty-boy actor would have been tempted to overplay the initial homophobia and strident masculinity as a direct counterpoint to McKellen's gentle persuasion.Read more ›
I was drawn to watching this movie after seeing Ian McKellen's great performance in the underrated "Apt pupil" (worth checking out if you haven't already seen it). However, McKellen takes it to a whole other level here, giving a tour de force in acting. Even Brendan Fraser, playing a very important role in the movie, shows acting skills not evident in most of his other work. I'm sure that this movie will be a career high for Brendan, and the director Bill Condon done well to get the performance out of him. Another fairly important part goes to Lynn Redgrave, who also does a fantastic job.
I suppose Gods and monsters can be described as an art house movie, and is indeed slow in places, but this is intentional and whilst it may limit the film's potential audience, it certainly isn't a negative criticism on my part. You should just sit back, relax, enjoy the unique friendship between McKellen and Fraser, and savour the quality of acting on show, especially of that from Mckellen.
Whale, a gay old gentleman, now afflicted with illness, but still in possession of a vigorous imagination and possibly (how does that song go?) "a mind that makes promises the body can't fill", lures Boone into his 'parlour' as a spider does a fly. It seems his intentions aren't entirely honourable. Boone is not absolutely uncomplicated himself, but he's not homosexual. The housekeeper knows her employer's game and huffs and tuts her reproach at every opportunity.Read more ›