Gods and Monsters (1998)

DailyView: Day 220, Movie 307

One of the movies listed on HBO Max’s leaving in December queue was an Oscar winner, Gods and Monsters, a semi-fictionalized story of the last days of the life of director James Whale, who directed classic movies Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein.

James Whale (Ian McKellan) had retired and was facing poor health, including strokes that affected his mind. Openly gay, James would still have younger men in his home for a variety of purposes. James’ housekeeper Hanna (Lynn Redgrave) disapproved but she loyally remained by his side, helping the old man through his life.

James took a liking to the gardener, Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser), a strapping young man, and he struck up a friendship with him. Clay was uncomfortable with the homosexual lifestyle, but the ambiance of the movie director intrigued him and, despite some outbursts, began to bond with James.

During the time with Clay, James was suffering flashbacks to World War I and the loss of loved ones in his past. The memories would cause serious repercussions to the old man’s present.

In the real world, James White was found dead in his pool, which is dealt with in the movie, but it is one of the parts, along with the relationship with Clay, that has been fictionalized.

The film dealt with uncomfortable feelings and the pain of loss and trauma that existed in the lives of men. It also handled the importance of compassion and seeing someone for who they were.

Ian McKellan was amazing as the troubled artist/director. Being most famous as the director of the first two Frankenstein movies, the film was able to place James into several “monster” metaphors that could look at the real monsters of the world. I have never been impressed with Brendan Fraser as an actor outside of the Mummy-type action films, but he does an outstanding job here as the gardener who felt uncomfortable at first and developed into someone who could see past the surface level of behavior by James into the pain beneath.

Gods and Monsters was tough to watch at times, but the underlying text is important for people to understand.

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