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|Index||229 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't like most movies, so if I do like one, I'm amazed.
This... there were so many things going on that were not as they seemed, but if you look at them in the light of "creation and destruction" they suddenly make sense. More than that.. understanding.
Jimmy Whale's whole past was about the fight between creation (his art, his loves) and destruction (the war, his family). His most famous works revolved around these very themes (creation of the monster). Now, his brain was finally deserting him... no more creation was possible. It was time for destruction.
Clay Boone was floundering between creation and destruction. He couldn't seem to do either. His attempts at creation (his girlfriend, becoming a marine to please his father) had failed, and as for destruction... he had too much compassion and hesitancy to accomplish any.
Hanna, the housekeeper, also sees life in terms of creation and destruction. She considers herself married even though her husband died 20 years ago. The only destruction she sees is Hell. Her husband couldn't have gone there, so he's not gone. Jimmy has to go there, so already is destroyed. Yet she tries to save him as long as she can.
Jimmy tries to recreate in Clay the motif that has accompanied him for so long: the Monster. He wants the Monster to destroy him, because he can't quite do it himself. He creates a relationship. Clay goes along because it's like a second chance at the father relationship he feels he failed already.
When Clay drops his towel, and Jimmy says "So it's going to happen after all," I thought he meant a sexual relationship. But then I saw. Clay was baring himself as he has with his father, trying yet again to help and please. But Jimmy knows that he has his chance to use Clay's homophobia as suicide. He attempts it, and fails. Clay has too much compassion, or else is still too hesitant. The planned destruction fails, though for Clay, Jimmy's response mirrors what he's already received from his father. Destruction of worth.
And yet, briefly, both men create again a friendship. Even after all of that, they can care.
I don't know why Jimmy was able to kill himself after this. Maybe he thought Clay was his last chance at a "mercy killing" and it had failed. Maybe the knowledge that Clay wouldn't kill him despite his worst deliberate actions made him feel good/strong enough.
Once I thought of "creation and destruction" I realized that the title says the same thing. Gods create, monsters destroy.
The acting in this film is beautiful, and the themes are so deep that I hardly knew they were there. I highly recommend this film.
Ian McKellen had never been part of my cinema vocabulary before 1998.
That year, he played two very impressive - and dissimilar - roles. The
first was the role of a Nazi fugitive in "Apt Pupil"; in that case, you
fear his character, but at the same time can't help but admire him. The
other role was in "Gods and Monsters" of homosexual movie director
James Whale, the brains behind "Frankenstein" and "The Invisible Man
(although the movie stresses "Frankenstein" and "The Bride of
Specifically, "GAM" focuses (apparently in a fictionalized way) on Whale's last few days alive, and his relationship with his gardener Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser). We might assume that since Whale was gay, he may have tried to directly come on to Boone. This doesn't happen in the movie, although there are scenes where it looks as though Whale is more than a little interested in Boone. How a certain scene tenses you up a little bit is a testament to the movie's strength.
"GAM" also goes so far as to show different periods of Whale's life. At one point, he is recounting to Boone his childhood in abject poverty in England, and we get to see it. Another scene shows his service in WWI; as Whale affirms, no war movie can ever accurately depict the battlefield ("They never got the smell."). There is also a memory of him directing "The Bride of Frankenstein". These all add to the movie's quality.
Overall, this is certainly a movie that I recommend. McKellen affirms himself as one of this era's greatest actors, and Fraser shows that he can do a good role when he tries. Also starring are Lynn Redgrave as housekeeper Hannah, and Lolita Davidovich as Boone's wife Betty. Definitely worth seeing.
I've seen this twice now, at time of writing, and i've grown quite fond of
it. First of all, this movie is an actor's dream - limited to a three
million dollar budget, there are still some marvellous props and efficient
special effects, but aside from these, this movie is 100% pure acting. It is
fueled by two remarkable performances: just watch the doco on the disc,
where you'll find pictures of the real James Whale, and then watch Ian
McKellen's face in the movie, and you realise that he's virtually summoned
the spirit of the eccentric, reclusive ex-Hollywood director of fun horror
classics Frankenstein, Invisible Man, Old Dark House and Bride of
Frankenstein. His partner in the duet of this movie is Brendan Fraser, who
pays homage ever so subtly to Karloff's monster in his portrayal of gardener
Clay Boone, who reminds Whale of his great creation and seems to evoke
memories of the past in him.
This movie did a wonderful thing for me: it left me with an appreciation for the character of Whale, and made me notice and appreciate his eccentric humour behind those horror movies.
Haunting and beautiful (helped in large part by Being John Malkovich composer Carter Burwell giving a terrific haunting score), with the poetry and simplicity of a Bergman film, no less.
Plot (25 words or less): Ailing film director James Whale befriends his
gardener, Clay, and the two men share a friendship that affects them
Review: Acting (*****): Ian McKellen does a wonderful job portraying Whale. As an openly gay man, McKellen brings something to the role that another straight actor may not have found- a complete understanding of Whale's psyche. Brendan Fraser is so good as Clay because Clay is one of the most normal characters you will ever find in a film. You KNOW Clay. He is the neighbor, or co-worker, who you do not know real well, but know well enough. Clay is understandably upset at James' open discussions of homosexuality, due to the repression of the time. Lynn Redgrave is almost unrecognizable as James' housekeeper Hannah. She twists her body in such a way, she looked like I imagine a devoted but older Hungarian housekeeper would look. The remainder of the supporting cast is wonderful, David Dukes deserves a mention, but the make-up effects used to recreate the faces are perfect.
Direction (*****): Bill Condon does a lovely job with his camera. He creates an ideal 1950's look with lush colors one moment, then cuts to a black and white fantasy dream sequence based on "Bride of Frankenstein" the next. When clips from the real "Bride of Frankenstein" are used, it is interesting to compare James Whale's vision with Bill Condon's vision.
Screenplay (*****): Bill Condon wrote the screenplay based on Christopher Bram's novel "Father of Frankenstein." Condon uses humor well, saving the film from becoming a ponderous adaptation or a depressing suicide drama. Tossing James Whale's memories from film to war and a former love to childhood also tosses the viewer around time, and adds to the understanding of James' illness due to his debilitating strokes.
Gay Content (****): There is a friendly kiss between McKellen and Dukes. One memorable scene has James remembering a pool party of the past, complete with nude men. James does make a desperate play for Clay, but his true motive is discovered. There are a few instances of verbal gay bashing.
Conclusion: This film portrays James Whale in a sympathetic light. He is a victim of his strokes, but still enjoys the pursuit of young men. His friendship with Clay is real, and works despite Clay's clear discomfort with the gay subject. I highly recommend this film.
This film is so hauntingly good - a film that truly lingers with you. Sir Ian Mckellen's portrayal of Film Maker James Whale, had such depth, you didn't want the story to end. Brendan Fraser's performance as the gardener couldn't have been better. The way he formed his facial expressions to convey such intense emotion, led to such a refreshing, non-hollywood performance. The interaction between Ian and Brendan seemed so real, you felt like you were in the moment. 8 out of 10 in my book.
** spoilers **
I just read a bunch of the comments.
I disagree that this movie bashes gays. For example; the idea that Whale's suicide at the end casts aspersions upon gayness (as necessarily life-disaffirming) is silly. Whale was a man. Men commit suicide. Whale, being a man, is not exempt from the fate of us all; that we will age and die, with no guarantees of elegance in the process, either in the nature of the aging process, or that our lives will bring to our declining years the glow of satisfaction. If anything, this movie does throw down a gauntlet, in the form of a cosmic puzzle: Where (precisely) did Mr. Whale "go wrong"? Did he? Or will the angelic tribunal grant him a crown of many jewels for his tragically profound humanity? People who saw the depiction of Whale's suicide in this movie as an exercise in gay-bashing must have missed the enormous complexity of his depicted character. Remember? He was suffering from post-stroke brain-dysfunction, producing heightened nostalgia which sharpened the sting of his professional misgivings and tortured him with forgotten war memories. He also suffered from general alienation, and a host of lesser demons. These are things that could even happen to a heterosexual; fancy that, wot?
Whoever thought Lynn Redgrave's work was bad needs to get a sense of humor. It was the perfect foil, in so many ways, to the Whale role. Of course, this owed first and foremost to the writing, but between the script and our screens there were no weak links.
How nice to see Fraser in his role. I'll never look at trailer trash (including me) in the same way.
The modest-but-effective "dream" sequences were reminiscent of Bunuel's for their power; the power of the subconscious as a primal force.
I'll mention the writing again. Some of the best screen writing I've ever seen.
Interesting thesis; that one finds oneself in and through others, and that this spiritual symbiosis often has to swim upstream against mighty prejudicial torrents to spawn. This film delivered that message very effectively; and the...uh...complexity of Whale's sexual predilections (and Boone's, for that matter) were necessary to bring home the expectation-busting power of that symbiosis.
It just occurred to me; I feel as though I'm seeing in Gods and Monsters the first truly, fully European-style movie made in the USA, ostensibly for stateside audiences. I saw "Chocolat" as an earlier example of this, but "Gods" has got it beat hands down on this count. I should think (and hope--to show those furriners that we yanks got taste and guts, too) "Gods" will get dubbed in a couple of languages and do very, very well abroad.
I remember reading a column in Fangoria recently where someone wrote
their list of the best horror films of the 90's and God and Monsters
made that list. It took me by surprise. A puzzled look came over my
face as I thought about it. That got me thinking. Maybe the idealism of
horror movies have literally been changed. The general public holds
this conception that horror movies are of a very close bunch. People
screaming, dying, various instruments of death and a killer who murders
for distressing reasons.
No doubt about it there's a definite closed idea of what's makes a horror movie nowadays. I have to admit I'm very closed minded when it comes to thinking about what makes horror. I immediately think of the outward horror that is more easy to visualize and ultimately easier to identify. God and Monsters falls in the almost forgotten category of 'internal' horror. The terror and fright comes not from a psycho wielding a butcher knife, but internally from the protagonist.
James Whale writer and director of the original Frankenstein and Bride Of Frankenstein movies is this film's protagonist played aptly by Ian McKellen. Seems he's not such a happy man. He lives in near isolation with his housekeeper for company and his old memories of film making, Hollywood and his deepest fears. Enter Brendan Fraser in an odd role for him as Whale's gardener slash caretaker. At first he just wants to do the work and get paid, but eventually they develop a relationship despite Whale's sexuality. Like most he's keenly interested in Whale's movie exploits and from there it's a roller-coaster ride for Whale who's life hits some low lows.
I viewed it as a quiet, character-driven drama and I wasn't scared, I wasn't frightened. I did not see it as a horror movie and I still don't. I can see the underlining internal horror element is there, but to call a man falling apart horror might be too much to grasp for me. A quiet character driven story with light & subtle performances by McKellen and Fraser is what I took away and I recommend you give it a chance. Horror or not.
Better than average script, camera work and musical score. Loosely based
the last days of the life of James Whale, a famed Hollywood director
suffering terminal afflictions following a stroke. Whale(Ian McKellen),
directed Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man,
Showboat and others was shunned by Hollywood society when his homosexual
secrets were brought out in the open.
This movie shows Mr. Whale living as a recluse in his mansion with a faithful housemaid (Lynn Redgrave). Searching for companionship, Whale strikes up a rocky friendship with his gardener, Clay Boone(Brendan Fraser). After Boone's refusal to enter Whale's sexual life, the famed and once respected director commits suicide in his swimming pool.
A frank and dead serious gaze upon human tragedy. The lead roles are extremely well acted. This is a must see of the '90s.
Gods and Monsters is a film which highlights what a great script can
produce: a moving and involving picture with great performances from all
concerned. However, this wouldnt have been possible without a well cast
film, and Sir Ian McKellen was robbed of the Best Actor Oscar by Roberto
The story is a not so simple character piece. There is no goal to be achieved, unless you see James Whale(McKellen)'s desire to have his pain relieved in the ultimate form, as a goal. The "growing" relationship between Boone (never-better Brendan Fraser) and Whale is fascinating to watch, and the script provides many stylistic touches to both words and actions appearing on screen, allowing the relationship to unfold visually aswell as through words.
This is the source of the film's high quality: the screenplay. Bill Condon has written and directed a script which won the Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
Please see this film. Ian McKellen is a great actor, and should be seen at his peak here. Lynn Redgrave was nominated also for her role as the loving housekeeper, but is more of caricarture with her funny foreign accent.
Critics have enjoyed this film as much as i have. please join the bandwagon, and you won't regret it.
Shades of Sunset Boulevard (not that there is anything wrong with that,) a wonderful film about both growing old and being gay. Ian McKellen is of course peerless, both funny and incomparably touching as Whale. Sterling work also from Fraser and Redgrave, not to mention Condon and cinematographer Katz. Watch it again.
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