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Ian McKellen, and Lynn Redgrave gave performances worthy of
Oscar, and Brendan Fraser gave one of the best performances
The story takes place in the 1950s. McKellen plays a director called "James Whale", who was in vogue in the 1930s, but has since retired, and lives with his old German housekeeper. Hanna (Lynn Redgrave) hires Clayton, (Brendan Fraser), a
drifter, to do lawn work, but McKellen has other things in mind for the good looking Fraser.
What he has in mind though isn't the obvious thing though, although that's certainly on his mind. The relationship between them is far more complex than one of simple lust, and they each end up filling an important part in each other's lives, and find they are a lot more alike than different.
This movie shows that when two people really care about each other, or need each other, that the lines we clearly think delineate us from each other, such as sexual orientation, just don't mean as much.
This is a very well done movie that didn't fall into any of the traps and cliches most movies of this type fall into.
Some people may find this movie hits too close to home, and be disturbed by it.
Anyone interested in producing a biography should pay heed to this film,
simply because it manages to encompass everything we need to know about
subject by focusing on one small period in his life.
Gods and Monsters looks at the final days in the life of director James Whale. This may not be the most notable time in his life, as we and the character are reminded constantly, yet it is the most telling. Years earlier, he directed the now classic Frankenstien films. While stunning achievements, they only serve as a reminder to him that his best years are well behind him.
Gods and Monsters offers brief flashbacks to his glory days in Hollywood, and to his poverty stricken childhood, from where his monsters continue to haunt him. This is not, however, what the story is about. Whale, (played by Ian Maclellen) is now old and sick. He is a homosexual, forced to live his lifestyle in complete secrecy. His career in Hollywood is finished. After a colossal flop the studios no longer wanted him. He lives his final years in his mansion with his aging housekeeper and confidant, Hannah (played by Lynn Redgrave).
Whale is smitten by the new gardener, Clay (Brendan Fraser). He flirts a few times, and soon they form a unique friendship. It is through this friendship that Whale is forced to face the monsters that continue to haunt him.
I don't know much about the real James Whale, but that doesn't prevent me from applauding Ian Maclellan's brilliant performance. Like 'an old fruit out of season' the character is nasty and bitter. But Maclellan showcases the vulnerable side of this character, that of a frightened child and an emotionally scarred man.
I almost didn't recognize Redgrave, playing the dowdy housekeeper, Hannah. She hides herself well in the role of a woman who strongly disapproves of her masters lifestyle, yet desperately wants to protect him from any harm.
The film is best viewed on the small screen, in the comfort of one's own livingroom. The slow pace demands that you pay attention. Slight nuances in the character of Whale tell so much about the story that they cannot be missed.
When I first saw this movie, I cried so. Especially after the last scene. I thought about the movie and after it was over, I cried again. The last time a movie moved me so was probably "St. of Fort Washington" with Danny Glover & Matt Dillon. My first impression was how lonely everyone was. The 3 main characters, Ian McKellan, Brendan Fraser, and Lynn Redgrave were all very lonely people. "Friend good. Alone, bad!" was one of the monsters lines. I have to say that after watching it the first time (and I hope to watch it many more,) I felt angry towards the James Whale character. He used Boone's character in order to incite him into wanting to try to kill him. When you think about it, he was perhaps planning it as early as when he said on their 1st or 2nd meeting how a big, Marine like him would no doubt break his neck if he laid a finger on him. Boone's character was making an act of love and sacrifice based on their friendship and his feelings of pity for this man when he offered himself for the final portrait in the "seduction" scene (as everyone seems to call it, but that's not really what it was to me.) All in all, one of the most thought provoking movies of the decade- all performances were great. Everyone seems surprised at the quality of Brendan Fraser's acting. Am I the only person that remembers him in "School Ties" and "The Scout"? I always knew he had it in him. And I remember Ian McKellan from "And the Band Played On" another movie in which he plays a factual based homosexual fighting for rights. His performance in that movie was but a promise of what he could do with a bigger and better role. This movie, and the others mentioned, are well worth seeing. In Whale's dreams, he fluctuates between being the monster and Boone being the "mad" scientist and yet calls him his monster in one of the last scenes. He tells him the only monsters are in here (pointing between his eyes) which is true. The monsters we make in our minds are the only real ones.
Ian McKellen, Lynn Redgrave, and even Brendan Fraser (in the film's most difficult role) shine in this beautifully written drama. Bill Condon's direction, however, lacks imagination and aesthetic. It's entirely the actors who pull off this insightful and sad portrait of an ageing, ailing gay filmmaker who was "out" when everyone else in Hollywood was closeted. I'm betting there's an Oscar coming to Ian McKellen, and hope the Academy won't overlook Redgrave.
Gods and Monsters' is film-making at its best, depicting the final days of James Whale, a complex and complicated man, famous for directing the first two 'Frankenstein' films and the original movie version of 'Showboat.' Exquisite performances are given by the great Sir Ian McKellen as Whale, who executes every nuance, every witticism, every emotion, with a perfection that is little short of incredible; Lynn Redgrave as Hanna, Whale's formidable but devoted housekeeper; and Brendan Fraser, in a wonderfully humane acting turn as Clay Boone, Whale's hunky grounds keeper, who is unwittingly and inexorably drawn into Whale's ever-increasingly confused and confusing world. Whale's initial interest in Clay is sexually motivated, but the relationship becomes much more labyrinthine for both men than is originally bargained for. But the real 'stars' of this movie are the direction (Bill Condon, who also wrote the screenplay) and the cinematography, producing visuals that are often haunting and infinitely memorable, especially during the flashback sequences and in the metaphorical "monster" scenes. One of my favorites is a scene in which Fraser gazes at his own reflection in a sink filled with water--it's a breathtakingly fragile image, shivery and shimmering and achingly delicate, and it seems to suggest at something much deeper and far-reaching within Clay himself. This is a film filled with such images and subtext--dreamlike, poetic touches, superimposed within the structure of an otherwise 'conventional' story. Superb.
I was very impressed with "Gods and Monsters," in much the same way every other poster here was impressed; therefore, I won't rehash the various superb performances. Suffice to say that this complex and slightly deranged bio-drama follows with sympathy the final days in the life of director James Whale, frequently allowing us to delve into his waning memories of power, strength and sexuality. In the majority of IMDB postings on this film, I see much (perhaps too much) attention given to touchy-feely discussions of James Whale's blossoming friendship and his homosexual nostalgia. Of course, Mr. Whale's homosexuality is important to our understanding of this story, but it's not as central to the film as are the SUBTLE Frankensteinian twists. Having suffered debilitating strokes, Whale is planning for a mercifully quick death---anything is preferable to his slow and pathetic deterioration, but Whale is too fearful to commit suicide on his own. It's obvious that Whale INTENTIONALLY resurrects his homosexuality as a means of ending his own life. To that end, Mr. Whale attempts to befriend his macho gardener, KNOWING full well (or HOPING) that Clayton Boone will react violently to homosexual advances. In a Frankensteinian way, the old director is endeavoring to USE Boone like a homicidal monster, an instrument of Whale's own demise. When the time is right, Whale intends to push the forbidden button, releasing Boone's homophobic fury. But HOW could Whale know that Boone is more like a Frankenstein creature than he imagined? Buried deep within the powerful frame and homophobic rage is...COMPASSION. Without further spoiling the film, I just want to add that Brendan Fraser STUNNED me with the depth of his performance---I never took the guy seriously until "Gods and Monsters."
I remember seeing Sir Ian McKellen at Stratford in England playing Romeo
about 24 years ago. He was pretty dynamic then. As I watched Gods and
Monsters, McKellen just bowled me over yet again. He certainly is a quite
classy actor and his 'out' status does nothing to harm his career which
seems to go from strength to strength.
The role of James Whale could be tailor made for him, and he seems to relish every moment. He draws the audience into understand the pain of Whale as he looks back on his life. A life that started with such humble beginnings, but went on to acquire a very privileged position in a world of sexual fantasy.
However, the film meanders its way through his life and ends up observing his pitiful state, and to his surprise the arrival of a gorgeous hunk (Brendan Fraser). Fraser fits the role like a glove, the director skillfully handles the power of Fraser's physique and his sexual allure. He allows us to believe that he is this grass cutting country bumpkin, who is at first nervous of Whale. However, Boone (Fraser) warms to Whale and wants to hear all his stories. Whilst this is taking place, Whale pretends to draw Boone and the sexual chemistry is brilliant.
The ultimate moment between the both characters is cleverly handled, where Boone tastefully bears all. However, it is all a ploy to get the hunk (Boone) to kill the monster (Whale). This is such a brilliant scene.
Supporting all the above is Lynn Redgrave, who plays the housekeeper to Whale. She is superb in the role and makes the trio complete. Her casual remarks to Boone about Whale do not drive him away, but draw him further into the picture.
Gods and Monsters deserves it's high ranking and a film that I would definitely recommend and watch time and again.
It's the quiet movies that get to you. The simple ones that seem to be
nothing then wind up slipping under your skin to make you wonder about
life in general. Junk like "Pearl Harbor" and "XXX" vanish like cotton
candy into your memory. Stories like "Gods and Monsters" make you
contemplate what is truth and reality...and Oh, don't I prefer the
latter to the former.
On the surface, this film is about James Whale's attempts to manipulate Clay Boone into a new version of his most famous creation, the Hollywood version of the Frankenstein monster...a creature that destroyed its creator in the first Frankenstein movie. He knows the best way to achieve his goal is to gain the younger man's trust and friendship...and then betray them. All nice and simple and quietly played out. But underneath that quiet pond lie rip currents ready to seize you and drag you into new directions.
Clay finds a surprising sense of worth in the older man's attentions...and Whale becomes a near father figure in their relationship...and their interaction winds up mirroring what happened between Clay and his real father. It also parallels another relationship of trust and understanding "Jimmy" had with another young man in the trenches of World War One. And ALSO parallels a director's relationships with his actors. And that is just one thread of the story to follow.
There are the changes Clay goes through. He starts out hard and alone, like a junk yard dog, but grows to care for a man he would never have even paid attention to, once, even after that man brutally betrays him. And Whale...he comes to care so much for Clay, he puts his devious plan aside (until a spur of the moment change of heart) even though it may mean more deterioration in what is left of his life.
What makes this movie so wonderful, to me, is how there is no one way to view it. You can see it as a character study of an old man nearing the end of his existence and wanting to end it; you can see it as a parable on friendship and manipulation; you can see it as a story about trust and the betrayal of that trust. The layers fit so neatly and seamlessly into each other, one becomes almost indistinguishable from the other.
Needless to say, I love "Gods & Monsters." I already had massive respect for Ian McKellen and Lynn Redgrave (they was robbed at the Oscars), but Brendan Fraser's low-key, almost brutally gentle performance was a revelation.
Brendan, you kick it.
This film is richly deserving of praise for every aspect of it -- from the writing and low-key directing to the perfect pitch music to the sense of time and place to the performances. A Michael Bay "Look At Me, I'm Directing And Making You Watch Me And Who Cares About The Story Or Characters" piece of crap this is not...and if that's what you like, you'll hate this film. But if you want something that has meaning and grace, then witness the beauty of "Gods And Monsters."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another film about film. I love this stuff: self-reference is the stuff of real image manipulation. And nearly all films reference others anyway -- only related to reality through the filter of past images.
Plus there is some very fine acting here -- acting of the simple kind where characters are defined and projected. McKellen is all over this -- Redgrave is a master -- but that's what we expect. My respect for Fraser as a serious actor has risen however.
This film is episodic, coming in spurts. The director's perspective is also episodic: Sex; Film; Imagination; Longing; Perversion; Alternative Realities; Pathological Remembrances; Creating Lives that Lack Perfection; Dying Having Lived; Dying Having Not Lived.
McKellen fills each level, but only one level at a time. That's the Shakespeare way, at least according to British dogma. So while the conception is highly intellectual, and the acting dear, it would have been better if we had a director and pivotal actor that understood how to do all this simultaneously. Like Penn and Nicholson in `The Pledge.' Like, dare I say, Whale himself.
Here's a sign how weak the director is: each of the three leads uses a radically different acting style. Fraser is wholly physical and reactive; McKellen tries to control his environment with force; Redgrave plays not a character in this film, but a character in one of Whale's referenced films. These are all apt, but they are not coordinated.
Strangely, the DVD extras detract from the higher dimensions of the film. I guess they figure it is easier to talk about a film by presenting a simple `explanation.'
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is very difficult to see this film as anything other than
Tinseltown-style agitprop for homosexuality and it stinks. I think it
must be very difficult to construct a film principally about
homosexuality in the vernacular of the mainstream audience:
Philadelphia's about AIDS; Brokeback Mountain is a lovestory... I
couldn't watch Gods and Monsters as a Norma Desmond-style paen to an
old timer's Hollywood career as it seems transfixed on the carnal
relationship between the two principals and the twist is a weak sop,
far too little too late.
McKellen should probably have known better but probably took on the project as a way of increasing the profile of homosexuality in the industry. That's all well and good but this isn't the vehicle for it, an insidious and confused medley of episodes which have more in common with a moody game of spin the bottle than a drama. Brendan Fraser tries hard. He is clearly an actor with more strings to his bow than the chisel-jawed hunk, but in this film he was cast primarily with the latter in mind. Lynn Redgrave is the only one to come out of the film carrying the dying embers of the flame of pathos. Bill Condon did better later with Kinsey, thank goodness for him. 2/10
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