Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters is one of the most beautiful, elegiac films of the last fifteen years. It is a fictionalized, speculative film about the last days of the great golden-age Hollywood director, James Whale, who is best remembered for directing several Universal horror classics, such as The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). When Gods and Monsters was released it received very good reviews, but several critics, obviously uncomfortable with the film’s depiction of Whale’s open homosexuality, managed to slip in comments regarding the director’s “hedonism.” One wonders whether, if the film’s subject had been the hetero charm of a Gary Cooper or Errol Flynn, would those same critics have written a praising pat on the back for the celluloid studs? Regardless, Gods and Monsters, while simplistic, is brave in its depiction of Whale’s sexual preference; yet the film also strangely holds back from damning Hollywood’s blatant hypocrisy regarding Whale’s fall from grace.
Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, and especially Lynn Redgrave give superlative performances. Fraser’s Clay Boone is Whale’s Frankenstein/Adonis of a gardener. Boone is slow on the uptake when it comes to realizing that his retired celebrity employer (McKellen) is more than just an odd artist. When Hannah, Whale’s maid (Redgrave), lets the cat out of the bag, Boone’s initial reaction is one of subdued violence. However, Boone soon finds himself missing Whale’s anecdotes and returns to his employer’s studio, securing a promise from Whale to “go easy on the fag stuff.” Continue reading