Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Gods and Monsters was promoted from the outset as an artistic drama, but the publicity tended to play coyly on the possibility of a homosexual romance between the retired film director James Whale, played by Ian McKellen and his hunky gardener Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser). While the film does involve romance, the central relationship between the director and his gardener is about the development of a genuine friendship between two outwardly dissimilar but inwardly kindred spirits. In the story, Whale has been living for many years in peaceful, if not entirely contented retirement, under the loving and watchful eye of his contentious and argumentative Hungarian housekeeper (Lynn Redgrave). His earlier celebrity as the director of the original Frankenstein movie and its sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, results in his being visited occasionally by disagreeable young men who have come to bask in the reminiscences of this creator of two "camp" classics. His reputation as a fairly outrageous homosexual comes into play here, when one particularly unpleasant and effeminate young man comes by seeking cinematic tidbits: the director challenges the boy to a game of stripping off one article of clothing for every revelation he shares about his moviemaking past. He had gotten the boy down to his briefs when he is stricken with one of his ever-recurring bouts of epilepsy, the result of a series of strokes. By way of contrast, while he is clearly interested in his gardener as a sex-object, gradually luring him into ever closer association, the openness and vulnerability of this awkwardly aggressive heterosexual boy inspires him to reveal the history of his heart. It turns out that, like the young man who is modeling for his supposed artworks, he came from a poor and difficult background. By the time naïve gardener learns of the director's homosexuality from the housekeeper, he has been drawn too deeply under the man's spell to stay away from their meetings for long. While the tension between the men never departs, a genuine relationship of caring develops between them. Meanwhile, Whale has been clearly observing the progressive deterioration of his mental faculties, and is increasingly being overwhelmed by vivid memories and visions.
High Artistic Quality, High Production Values, Sleeper