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flick pick | Gods and Monsters 1998
Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Christopher Bram (novel), Bill Condon
Starring: Ian McKellan, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama 
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
artsy-fartsy, serious
The verdict: / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis It’s the 1950s and James Whale (McKellan), the flamboyant Hollywood director most famous for his Frankenstein movies, is well past his glory days. A recent stroke has left his mind confused, as memories from his past – war-time horrors, boys he’s loved, happy Hollywood days -- push themselves to the surface and mingle with his somewhat pathetic present. Old and ailing though he may be, however, he’s still a lascivious ogler of pretty young boys. When handsome stud-boy gardener Clay Boone (Fraser) catches his fancy, Whale initiates a friendship by inviting Boone to pose for a painting. Whale likes Boone’s youth, his strength, his sweet naïveté -- and perhaps, even enjoys the element of danger that comes from not knowing when or if this straight boy is going to turn violent, should Whale push the sexual intimations too far. Boone does feel more than a bit uncomfortable, but at the same time, Whale seems to fill a void in his fatherless, poverty-stricken life. Ultimately, he can’t help but be lured in by Whale’s elegant wit, his lavish attention, and his wonderful stories of Hollywood’s decadent past.

Review I went into this movie expecting to be bored by what was sure to be a slow-moving, sentimental relationship flick – and instead ended up finding a subtle, at times surreally beautiful, drama that I absolutely adored. The relationships between Whale and Boone, and between Whale and his hyper-protective housekeeper Hanna, are both complex, moving, and completely believable, and you can’t help but be riveted by the amazing performances delivered by Ian McKellan (as Whale), Lynn Redgrave (as Hanna), and yes, even Brendan Fraser. Who would have guessed that Encino Man would be able to hold his own against an actor of McKellan’s quality? Though he does essentially play just a big dumb beautiful guy, perhaps not too far of a stretch, he brings a real sense of depth to the character – Boone is touchingly, humanly real, as he struggles to reconcile his homophobia with the fact that he enjoys his strange friendship with Whale. There’s a little bit of god and monster in each of its characters – the gay guy’s no saint, the homophobic straight guy’s hardly evil – and its precisely this refusal to make any big, simplistic statements on life and death, love or friendship or sex, good or evil, that makes this movie great watching. 
reviewed by Y. Sun 

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