Gods and Monsters
1998 | Drama | In English | 105 minutes
This story, about director James Whale, takes place in the 1950s, decades after Whale’s significant hits, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein had opened in theaters. But Whale is now forgotten and recovering from a series of strokes that leave him fragile and tormented by memories. He spends much of his time painting. He lives with his long-time maid, Hanna, who cares for him but disapproves of his homosexuality. Whale befriends a young, strapping gardener, Clayton Boone. Boone informs Whale that he is straight and Whale assures Boone that he no longer can express sexual feelings. Whale implores Boone to pose while he paints him. Finally, Boone agrees to pose in the nude. Whale makes a sexual move, kissing Boone’s shoulder. Boone is appalled. Whale, confessing this was his plan all along, asks Boone to kill him. The next morning, Hanna, clutching a suicide note, finds Whale’s body floating in the pool. A decade later, Boone and his son are watching “Bride of Frankenstein on television. Boone tells his son that the director of the film, James Whale, was his friend.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 95%
- Metacritic Score: 74
- Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay (Bill Condon); Nominated, Best Actor (Sir Ian McKellen) and Best Supporting Actress (Lynn Redgrave)
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There are so many colors to McKellen’s performance, so many diverse emotions fleetingly play on his face, that resisting his art is out of the question. Better work by an actor will not be seen this year. A psychologically acute portrait of a singular man at a crossroads in his life, nothing whatsoever is wanting.
You don’t have to be a film buff to relish this portrait of Hollywood—to laugh at a world where monsters, after a few martinis, are indistinguishable from the gods. This picture does (Whale) proud.
GODS and MONSTERS creates a deeply resonant portrait of James Whale and the gay Hollywood of his era. Director Bill Condon segues deftly through memory into the moviemaking process itself. Here and elsewhere, real Hollywood figures (Elsa Lanchester, Boris Karloff) are ably impersonated. Particular attention is paid to George Cukor, a target for Whale’s cattiness and an emblematic figure in the closeted gay subculture of his time. What especially elevates this film is the razor-sharp cleverness of Mr. McKellen’s performance, which brings unusual fullness and feeling to a most unusual man.
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