Picks and Pans Review: Gods and Monsters
Although moviegoers may not recognize the name James Whale, they know the director's most famous movies, Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Boris Karloff's monster, with that repulsive flattened skull, and Elsa Lan-chester's Mrs. F., her tall hair highlighted with two art-deco streaks of white, are unforgettable. They seem almost aware of their lack of humanity, which somehow makes them that much more human.
This fictional re-creation of the director's final years in 1950s Hollywood is likewise a sad, touching study of a man on the verge of losing his very sense of self. Living in retirement, the homosexual Whale (McKellen) gets what pleasure he can flirting with the strapping new lawn boy (Fraser). He sketches his portrait and regales him with stories. But then, as a result of a stroke, Whale begins to disintegrate, slowly and painfully, before Fraser's eyes.
Gods and Monsters overplays the parallel between the director's love for his lawn boy and Dr. Frankenstein's for his creature, but McKellen is flawless. His portrayal of a man falling apart is done with breathtaking precision. (No rating)
Bottom Line: It's alive—and splendidly acted