|Page 1 of 23:||          |
|Index||229 reviews in total|
Admittedly, I am a sucker for films about Hollywood. From "Sunset Boulevard" to "The Bad and the Beautiful" and even "The Carpetbaggers," watching a film about movies is always a pleasure, guilty or otherwise. "Gods and Monsters" can be added to that short list. The semi-fictionalized story of director James Whale's last days is a melancholy tale of an intelligent, creative mind that is beginning to fail and Whale's desperate fear of that mental failure. He sees in the handsome hulking form of his gardener an individual that reminds him of his most famous film creation, Frankenstein's monster, and he tries to reach out to him and offer the friendship that his film creation was denied. However, his mind is swimming in and out of fantasy, memory, and reality, and his gesture initially confuses the gardener, who sees it only as a sexual advance. In one of the Motion Picture Academy's most bewildering choices, the Best Actor Oscar for 1998 went to an Italian comic who has not been heard from since instead of to the brilliant Ian McKellan in what is arguably his finest film role as James Whale. Lynn Redgrave is funny and touching as his housekeeper, and Brendan Fraser, an adventurous actor who does not shy away from stretching his abilities, has yet to find a better role than that of Clayton Boone, the gardener. Beautifully written and directed by Bill Condon, the film is more than just an homage to old Hollywood. "Gods and Monsters" echoes some of the themes of "Sunset Boulevard" in its portrayal of a Hollywood veteran, who has been banished and forgotten by the industry and has retreated into a private world of his own making where he still directs the scenes.
Truth be told, it's not easy to write a film review as disconnected as I am
from the underlying inspirations and principals of the movie in tow: Gods
and Monsters. I knew little about James Whale and the Frankenstein
franchise, possessed virtually zilch experience with Bill Condon (aside
the trivial baggage that his previous _and first_ feature film was the
Direct-To-Oblivion sequel to the
Candyman.), and unceremoniously avoided anything to do with Brendan Fraser.
So, there's not much I can say about historical accuracy, era
juxtapositions, or tour-de-force performances. All I know comes from the
ninety-eight or so minutes I had with the film.
Which were pretty splendid, to say the least. What more, I was pleased by how little the film seemed to hit me over the head. Not with a lengthy diatribe over the political progressions of societal acceptance of diverse sexual orientations, not with any sort of disgusted expose of Hollywood's miscreants. Instead, I found a minimal but simplistically acceptable plot moved along by wonderful acting, vivid portrayals of what it's really like, beneath the typical distractions, gimmicks, and veils, to be a human being. Ian McKellan astounded me. Fact or fiction, he wasn't necessarily James Whale, but a complicated, reserved, and often misunderstood director who found a glimmer of intrigue and desire for his new gardener, Clayton Boone, played impeccably by Brendan Fraser. From their initial meeting with Whale indulging in staring at Boone hard-driving an edger, I was struck by a remarkable sense of kinship between the two, which only got better as the film unfolded. And, with Hanna--the third vertice of the bizarre love triangle--the edgy buffer between the men, I felt incredibly comfortable just watching three very different people open up to each other and to me. The irony of the title, Gods and Monsters, is that whether someone or something is considered a 'God' or 'Monster' is largely due to perception...human perception. We invent our gods and our monsters daily, and they are usually people we know, love, hate, or admire. I spent a very good ninety-eight minutes, mostly from being in the company of those three fellow humans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I read through all the comments and feel that a significant element of the movie was mostly overlooked -- the relationship that formed between Whale and Boone was not as one-sided as many have chosen to view it. While the movie appears to focus on James Whale's transformation into a human being at peace with his mortality, the more powerful dramatic transformation takes place with Clay Boone's character.
Clayton Boone inadvertently provided James Whale a means for revisiting and perhaps coming to terms with his past. More importantly, Boone's unexpected pity in the face of Whale's intentionally uncomfortable verbal and physical sexual assaults in effect provided Whale with the strength to end his life on his terms.
But what did Clayton Boone receive from this relationship? Boone is the son of an alcoholic father, emotionally confused and unable to connect with others (re: Frankenstein). His burgeoning friendship with Whale was a means for him to try yet again to understand and come to terms with his roiled emotions stemming from childhood. Boone failed to please his alcoholic tyrant Father (indeed, a Sisyphean task since children of alcoholics are doomed to fail in meeting the perceived emotional needs of the abusive parent), and thus Whale represents another Father figure for Boone, seemingly as impenetrable and emotionally unavailable as Boone's own father.
This film is actually more about a young man growing up and coming to terms with himself. However the notion that all Boone needed was to confront his homosexual fears and overcome his rigid concept of manhood is off target. Boone is still trapped in adolescence because he is desperately trying to please his father; this makes the willing commitment to befriend Whale despite his sporadically abusive behavior all the more realistic. And the removing of the towel near the end is a watershed moment in which victim opens up once more to the abuser in a moment of complete vulnerability and trust. That his trust is betrayed (as it must have been so many times before by the alcoholic parent in his life) is heartbreaking, and yet both men recover and acknowledge friendship, platonic love and mutual respect in the aftermath. In the process of reliving his childhood torment through a Father-Son relationship with James Whale it is Clayton Boone who transforms himself and is fulfilled through Whale's friendship and shared wounds from an over demanding father. Whale's suicide at the end was not a reaction to failed lust for Boone -- far from it. His suicide was borne from the strength and clarity he derived from Boone's compassion, allowing Whale to face his mortality and willingly make peace with his past.
I understand that many feel the ending scene with Boone stomping about in the rain like Frankenstein was unnecessary and over the top. But showing a contented Boone who had obviously progressed from one-dimensional relationships to become a caring father and husband himself was the most important story element in the movie. The James Whale character in the movie may have thought himself a monster, a sexual predator with few redeeming qualities, but before dying he made a connection with another wounded soul, enabling both to heal. Whale's own redemption may have been the A plot of the movie, but Clayton Boone learning to sort out his confusion and pain was the B plot and the exclamation point in the film's final scene. Watching him playfully 'Frankenstein-about' in the rain in recognition and celebration of the relationship that helped him achieve fulfillment was a celebratory moment, and not an unfortunate throw-in to appeal to typical Hollywood standards.
A historical drama about famed director James Whale (Ian McKellen),
Gods and Monsters finds Whale primarily in his last years, living
relatively modestly in 1950s Hollywood. A heavy emphasis is placed on
his homosexuality and his complex relationship with his young male
gardener, Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser).
Gods and Monsters is an unusual film in that although it's not very plot heavy, there is little feeling of a lack of substance. It's really a personality study, but a very deep, multifaceted look at Whale, Boone and to a lesser extent, Whale's domestic helper, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave). As such, the film largely hinges on its performances, which couldn't be better.
Fraser is perhaps the most impressive, as the tenor of his role is very different than most of the material he's tackled over the years. He never fails to sell his nuanced character, who is something of a lower-class enigma with a clearly troubled past and a desire for a simpler future, but who hardly knows how to express or achieve what he desires. The description is almost a perfect reflection of Whale, as well, as we come to realize. Of course McKellen and Redgrave are good, too, but their roles are more along the lines of some of their past fine work.
Echoing the parallel between Boone and Whale's histories and dispositions, Whale's life is shown as being deeply mired in the themes of his two Frankenstein films, even though he is shown as publicly wanting to play them down. Whale is something of a cross between Colin Clive's Dr. Frankenstein, Ernest Thesiger's campy Dr. Pretorius and Boris Karloff's sympathetic monster, enjoying the role of creator as much as the simple pleasures of food and a smoke, and ultimately desiring friendship rather than forlorn loneliness in his twilight years. Whale's loss of his creation on The Road Back (1937), from which he temporarily recovered his composure, and the perceived "monstrosity" of his sexual orientation and eccentricities began a slow process of alienation from the milieu he loved at one time. Like the Monster seeking emotional recompense, especially in the face of imminent destruction in the wake of a stroke, Whale attempts to latch on to whatever intimacy he can find from others, and ultimately expresses an embrace of death over living.
Although the historicity of the film may be questionable on some accounts, it's important to remember that the film, although a historical drama, is still fiction, and many changes are by way of normal "literary license", designed to underscore more abstract points about Whale's life and character.
Director Bill Condon nicely inserts select scenes from Whale's past, including his experience in World War I, which informed his films such as Journey's End (1930), and a wonderful recreation of Whale filming a scene from Bride of Frankenstein (1935). We also see an almost amusingly truncated version of the latter and some typical peanut gallery remarks showing how Whale's work was apt to be misunderstood. Carter Burwell's beautiful, understated music is also worth noting. My only small complaint about the film is that I would have like the music to appear more frequently than it did.
Among the most intriguing characters I've seen is Hanna (Redgrave). I
knew she was in the film, there she was in the opening seen & I still
kept looking for her! That's how terrific her characterization is of
the Hungarian Catholic widowed maid to the flaming gay famed director,
James Whale (Sir Ian McKellen).
Is there 'any' character that Sir McKellen can't play to perfection today? In "God's & Monster's", McKellen mastered Whale & gave Fraser an acting lesson ::winking::.
To watch the two real life friends, Lynn Redgrave & Ian McKellen, play purrfect foils--Hanna praying for her beloved "Mr. Jimmy's" 'unspeakable' sinful soul because he's gay was hysterical. McKellen pretending to flirt with Fraser, the epitome of a t-totally straight guy that any gay guy could clock in a heartbeat, was also side-splitting. Hanna believing they were having a romantic relationship was just too much fun as she threw serving trays at them & gave Whale scorned looks as if to kill whenever he'd have Fraser in for lunch or tea. These subtleties made the movie an absolute delight.
Thus, while heavy drama was going on, there was a comedy line-in-cheek throughout the motion picture. Of course, the plot proves why "Mr. Jimmy" was provoking his hunk of a gardener (Fraser) . . . but I'm not telling. That's the best part of the picture.
Whoever claims this movie is 'gay-bashing' doesn't know the meaning of it. The movie was about the director of "Frankenstein & Bride of Frankenstein." He just so happened to be gay, & thus, part of his life story as a gay man had to be featured in the film. Hanna playing a religious foil was right on time for the moment of the release of the film when the major church denominations are factionalizing over gays being equal in the churches! That's a great film--one that conveys a social struggle in the character of one great actor, Lynn Redgrave. She got the attitude of the church exactly right.
Doing a queer critique of "God's & Monsters," I rate it a 20 out of 10! This was not the silly, slapstick, "To Wong Foo," bizarre, "Stonewall," that was all out of context from the reality of the characters, or there ever so unreal (but cute), "Priscilla Queen of the Desert." This story is very true to life then & now. It came out right on time, as well.
Lynn Regrave delivered the performance of her lifetime! In my mind she won the Oscar. McKellen gave another of his stellar characterizations & also won my Oscar. I also feel the picture should have been best picture of the year. Fortunately, many other notable awards were given that the blindered Film Academy was too dense to do itself. Redgrave was most robbed of her Oscar because she was anyone but herself! She wasn't even recognizable as Lynn Redgrave, for heaven's sake.
So if anything or anyone was gay bashing, it was the Film Academy itself, for overlooking the Oscar winning performances of Redgrave & McKellen & the Best Picture of the Year.
. . . & I'm still watching it in late August 2007.
Originally, I thought this would be a film of gay man versus straight man.
It is. But much more than that, it is a film that speaks of human strengths
and weaknesses, one that studies with quirky charm and quiet strength the
scenario of man versus man.
Without getting maudlin or preachy, "Gods and Monsters" goes about telling its story about ignorance, frailty, and unconditional love, the very themes that ran throughout most of James Whale's life and films.
Bill Condon has created a poetic masterpiece, a wonderful answer to the question "Can't we all just get along?". Ian McKellen as James Whale is fascinating and absorbing, his facial expressions and body movements mesmerizing. He does not give a stereotypical "queen" performance. Rather, his James Whale is a dignified, yet tortured man. Lynn Redgrave is comical for the most part as Whale's maid, though she does lend a certain down to earth quality. It is Brendan Fraser, though, who steals this film. As Clay Boone, Fraser holds his own in McKellen's formidibal shadow. He does not provide a stereotypical performance either. Boone prooves to be as dignified and monstrous as Whale.
The few problems I had with the film where two gimmicky scenes, one showing Boone's surrender to a request of Whale's that he pose "like a statue", the other a dream sequence that has Whale walking among his fallen comrades in the trenches of World War one, and one flashback on the set of "Bride of Frankenstein", a scene tainted by Arthur Dignam's awful portrayal of Ernest Thesiger.
Eventually, "Gods and Monsters' proves two things: that we are all at once superhuman and sub-human, and that Hollywood can still show this in a beautiful way.
Ian McKellen is superb as James Whale, the man behind the celluloid Frankenstein. Departing from that point, everything works. We're taken by the hand of this elderly celebrity in a world - and a town -that worships celebrity. The town also worships youth and box office grosses. For Whale, youth and box office grosses are way back in his distant pass. That's why, I imagine, the arrival of the gardener with Brendan Fraser's body, awakens in the old man some kind of spark. Their relationship is filled with a sort of emotional suspense that makes the entire movie, riveting. The story is told with a sort of personal melancholy that Bill Condon, the young writer/director, seems to understand fully. Compassion is in his eye and in his soul. The scene in which Ian McKellen remembers his swimming pool crowded with naked young men is one of the most beautifully reminders of how the aging heart remains alive within his memories. Very moving, very sad and very, very good.
Gee, where should I begin? It's a character study -- but on what subject?
About a man who came to gay awareness far too late to benefit from the gay
lib movement? About an artist whose greatest achievements depended on
extinguishing all connections between the personal and the political? All
of the above and so much more!
Personally, I'd give the Oscar to Brendan Fraser, who has a much more challenging role as the understated, naturalistic yard man, though Ian McKellan gives such a commanding performance that he's bound to play a prominent role at every award ceremony. If he's dissed because the love interest is gay, it's only the proof gay activists have long sought -- namely, that peronal respect is sexually conditioned.
All in all a wonderful film for anyone who loves great acting and a director willing to push the envelope. It's a terrific look at the ways life has shaped all of our beliefs.
From the opening credits to the (mostly) predictable climax, Bill Condon's
film is a technical masterpiece and an excellent bit of arthouse fodder to
The title, which comes from James Whale's classic film Bride Of Frankenstein, refers to the gods and monsters living in our lives and vicariously in our close associates' lives.
Condon has done a remarkable job editing in flashbacks, and the sketchy oblique, often contrasted shots pay great homage to Whale's early Universal pictures.
The story is a simple one: James Whale (Ian MacKellan), famed director, has had a stroke and is slowly dying. He is a lonely man in need of companionship and inner peace. He tries to find this solace in Clay Boone (Brendan Fraser, in a rare serious role), his yardman. The blossoming relationship between the two is the plot focus of the film.
Carter Burwell's score is wonderful as always, and Lynn Redgrave's role as Whale's housemaid is superbly put on. A great movie for any fans of the late Whale, or anyone looking for a true human drama.
Gods and Monsters is an invigorating look into the spirit and the meaning to be found at the end of one's life. The film is based on the novel Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram and explores the final days of James Whale, the director of the original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein movies. It was written and directed by Bill Condon (Candyman II: Farewell to the Flesh) and features a highly talented cast, led by Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, and Lynn Redgrave. Though not every scene is right on target, Gods is perhaps one of the most moving and emotionally complex films to hit the theatres in a long while. The story takes place in 1957 and is based on the relationship between the retired director and his gardener. Whale (McKellen), long forgotten by the Hollywood studios, has withdrawn to a secluded life of painting. However, following the latest in a series of disabling strokes, Whale becomes more and more reliant upon the care of his live-in maid Hannah, and more and more distraught at what seems to have been a lonely and meaningless life. Then he meets Clayton Boone (Fraser), the burly young gardener that Hannah has recently hired. Whale becomes fascinated with Boone, and right away asks to paint him. Boone, though somewhat flattered, is reluctant to accept the offer of the intimidatingly flamboyant Whale because he is unsure of the old man's motives. Boone does finally accept, however (if only to please the lonely old man), and what results between the two is of the most beautiful of friendships. McKellen and Fraser thrive during these scenes, in which their true acting talent shines through delightfully. The film is at its best here too, for it is here where we learn about the fears and inhibitions of the two characters. We learn that Boone and Whale, at opposite ends of life but equally as afraid of what lies ahead, really need each other. Whale needs someone to validate his existence and to bury the monsters of his past, and Boone needs someone to fill the void that was created by the lack of a father figure in his life. There are times, however, when Gods and Monsters can run a little slow. I particularly felt this way during Whale's dream sequences in which Fraser played Dr. Frankenstein and McKellen appears as the monster himself. These scenes serve to reinforce Whale's view of himself as a perverted monster, but they don't seem fit with the tone of the film and feel confused. For the most part, however, the imagery that Condon loads his film with is wholly positive. One such instance takes place in a scene between Boone and his former girlfriend, Betty (Lolita Davidovich). Betty, the older of the two, gets through telling Clayton that he is too immature and drives away, leaving him standing all alone on a hopscotch course in the middle of a playground. Boone, upset by what Betty has just told her, kicks a nearby can in disgust. The unmistakable impression that Condon conveys to the audience is that Boone, playing kick the can on top of a hopscotch course, is indeed a child. There is no doubt, however, that the acting is what makes Gods and Monster shine. Both McKellen (Actor) and Redgrave (Supporting Actress) were nominated for Oscars, and deservedly so. McKellen (Apt Pupil, Richard III), in pulling off beautifully such a complex role, once again proves that he is one of the top four or five actors around. And Redgrave, who won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe Award for this role, brings energy and wit to Hannah, whose wry humor and old-fashioned religious morality helps to pump life into Gods while at the same time further antagonizing the beleaguered Whale. It is refreshing to see her character written in this way, as all-too often this type of supporting character acts merely as a go-between and mediator for the two major characters. Brendan Fraser is another plus, too. Audiences who are used to seeing Fraser in one-dimensional roles for such movies as Blast from the Past and Encino Man may be pleasantly surprised as to the amount of depth he is able to bring to Clayton Boone. There are very few films that come out nowadays that have a combination of good acting, scriptwriting, and directing. Gods and Monsters is one of those few. It is certainly a film that is driven by the acting, but Condon's direction, as well as his script (which earned Condon a Best Screenplay Adaptation Oscar) provides a workable stage for the acting to take place. The result is one extraordinary film that any true movie-lover must see.
|Page 1 of 23:||          |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Official site||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|