Bill Condon’s ‘Gods and Monsters’ is Beautiful and Bittersweet (review)

Fictionalized version of the last days of James Whale, director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. It’s the 1950s, and Jimmy (Ian McKellen) is an old man now, having long been booted out of Hollywood for being openly gay. His mind is starting to go, leaving him with two options: not take medication, be overcome by memories and occasionally pass out, or take the medication and have trouble thinking coherently. His troubles are lessened by a friendship with his hunky gardener Clay (Brendan Fraser), but the past keeps coming back to haunt him.

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The film is nowhere near classifiable as horror, but given that it’s about James Whale, that monsters are a continuous image system, and that Clive Barker is an executive producer, I feel good about including it here. Fans of Universal monster movies will enjoy a scene when a pesky acquaintance of Jimmy’s (Jack Plotnik) reunites him with Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester—the actors playing them look close to the real thing.

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Jimmy is often equated with Frankenstein’s monster in the movie (for example a dream sequence when he’s the monster and Clay is the mad scientist), possibly symbolizing his status as an outcast and his loneliness. He has a sort of boyfriend, but David is very closeted and tends to scold Jimmy for not playing the game of acting heterosexual for the masses. Clay has a bond with him, but Clay’s grossed out and skittish about Jimmy’s sexuality. Which leaves his kooky live-in maid Hannah (Lynn Redgrave), who loves him, but thinks he’s going to hell.

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It’s a sad movie, but there’s still quite a bit of humor, keeping it from being too depressing. Which is appropriate, since Jimmy (at least movie Jimmy) always meant his horror movies to be kinda funny. Check it out if you’re in the mood for monsters but not gore, or if you’d like to see a movie about a gay dude played by a gay dude and made by gay filmmakers for once.

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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