Thursday, 2 May 2013

Gods and Monsters (1998) - ★★★★

Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Christopher Bram (Novel), Bill Condon (Screenplay)
Stars: Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave, Jack Plotnick

There's something about this movie that's just so sweet and tender. It deals with the subjects of loneliness, regret, disappointment and despair in a most beautifully touching way. It's not all butterflies and rainbows, there's quite a bit of raunchiness to this movie. All I know is that Ian McKellen played James Whale (Director of Frankenstein) with real love and understanding. It's one of the finest performances I've ever seen.

Gods and Monsters follows the last days of James Whale, the great director of films such as: Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Invisible Man (1933). After suffering a stroke in his old age, his mental state begins to deteriorate. He makes an unlikely friend with his gardener Clayton (Brendan Fraser), who allows James to draw him. James eventually opens up to Clayton, telling him about painful memories from the past and secrets known to no-one.

This is one of those biopics that truly allows you to see inside the head of the protagonist. As he recalls the heart-wrenching memories of fighting in the war and being poor as a child, we see such a vulnerable side to him. Ian McKellen had a number of monologues in this film, each one as memorable as the last. His performance was not only subtle, but extremely realistic.

In one scene, it looked as though McKellen drew upon his own personal experiences in order to fully submerse himself into the emotional state of the character. He tells Clayton, "Hatred was the only thing that kept my soul alive. And amongst the men I hated... was my dear old dumb father, who put me in that hell in the first place." It was the look in his eyes when he spoke of painful subjects, everything just felt so real. If that's not masterful acting then I don't know what is. McKellen gets my vote for Best Actor 1998.

Brendan Fraser gave one of his finest performances as a man who really just needed a friend... even if that friend is losing his mental faculties. He was like a psychiatrist to James and vice-versa. They needed each others friendship at this difficult point in their lives. The chemistry between McKellen and Fraser was fantastic, it was roaringly funny and touching. Lynn Redgrave was almost unrecognizable in this movie, giving a hilarious Oscar worthy performance as James' servant. Altogether, the performances really made the movie fantastic.

In the end, it's Ian McKellen that sweeps you off your feet into the strange and interesting world of James Whale. This movie is just an absolute treat to watch, especially if you're a fan of Whale's films. I feel that the movie could have been made better though with more emphasis on the relationship between James and Clayton. As it is, Gods and Monsters is an extremely interesting look into the mind of a revolutionary film-maker.


  1. I have never seen any of Whale's films before I have seen this, and I was really impressed with this movie. I agree with what you said about Ian McKellen drawing from his own personal experiences in some of those scenes being as effective as they are. Great review

    1. I did a little research into Ian McKellen's history. Guess What? His father was a religious minister, as was his grandfather. Can you imagine being a gay child with extremely religious men in your family?

      Well his father died when he was a young adult. So he came out of the closet to his mother and she said that she was just happy he wasn't lying anymore. Ahh, I'm just glad I didn't have to grow up in the early 20th century.