James Whale was a fascinating director. Scarred from the first World War, he turned to the theater and finally to movies in order to exorcise his demons. And what beautifully dark movies he made. Of course if you know a little bit of film history, you will know that he directed Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, but he also directed the Old Dark House, The Invisible Man and the Man in the Iron Mask. He was also a talented painter, a theatre director and an out homosexual. In Gods and Monsters, Ian McKellen plays the elderly Mr. Whale in his waning years.
Mr. Whale is in failing health. He has had several strokes and his concentration is failing him. Just home after one of his strokes, he spots a new lawn care man. He invites this strapping young man, played by Brendan Fraser, in for tea. They strike up a tenuous relationship that involves Mr. Whale sketching him. Their relationship evolves as Mr. Whale gets sicker until one night, Mr. Whale begs this young ma to kill him out of mercy.
The film is solid biopic fodder. This of course means that it is just okay. Nothing spectacular and nothing horrendous. Ian McKellen turns out a great performance, but Brendan Fraser seems to be miscast. His jokey hunk persona actually does a disservice to him, which is odd considering he is playing a dumb hunk that mows lawns for a living. He just sort of sits there on camera, not really doing much. I liked the solid cameos of people portraying Elsa Lancaster and Boris Karloff. Other than that, this movie is pretty much blah. If you like to watch biopics, you will probably like it. If you don’t I would suggest avoiding it.