Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

August 19, 2010

Whale of a time

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 7:50 am

Set in 1957, Gods And Monsters is a film about the last days of Hollywood’s B-movie director James Whale, best remembered as the man who directed such films as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein among others.

Ian McKellen plays James Whale, the ageing homosexual filmmaker who takes a fancy to his good-looking gardener Clayton Boothe, played by Brendan Fraser. The film’s really about the unusual friendship that develops between the two men, who’re as diverse as chalk and cheese.

Whale is a man whiling away his early Hollywood retirement lapsing into nostalgic dreams; he’s what you’d call a tortured soul. You feel sorry for him when you see him sizing up the yard-boy, or when you realize he knows he doesn’t have terribly long to live. Boothe, on the other hand, is your average Joe, a heterosexual twenty-something ex-Marine who can’t quite understand Whale’s interest in him. Gods And Monsters works because it manages to strike all the right chords and because it’s essentially a poetic yet painful portrait of a wasted life.

The film’s held together by Ian McKellen’s performance. It’s a tough part to play, one that could have easily turned out as a lecherous old man who arouses zero pity or sympathy, but McKellen plays him so astutely that by the end of the film your heart goes out to Whale, even though you can see him making all the wrong choices along the way.

Another remarkable performance is delivered by Lynn Redgrave, who plays Whale’s housekeeper: she’s a cheerless old maid who disapproves of Whale’s sinful longings, but tends to him faithfully.

A deep and moving drama about an unusual relationship and an uncommon man, the film is a must for the sheer magnificence of Ian McKellen’s performance: the intricate little touches, the nuances he brings to this complicated character.

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