Gods and Monsters
***.5 GM
Starring: Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave

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Ian McKellen is marvelous. That's all you need to know.

Yet I'll tell you more. McKellen plays James Whale, director of such movies as "Frankenstein" and "Bride Of Frankenstein" and a man who has suffered a stroke and is having debilitating flashbacks to random and traumatic periods in his life, yet remains predominantly lucid. Brendan Fraser is Clayton Boone, the guy who does his lawn and becomes the only friend Whale has in his twilight other than his zealot maid (Lynn Redgrave).

I've always liked Fraser, and this time is no different, playing the ex-Marine washout that Whale takes a shining to, trying to get him to pose for a portrait in somewhat of an effort to recapture his free-wheeling peak Hollywood days of crazed homosexual hedonism. Boone, normally put-off by crazy "fag" talk and such, finds himself drawn back to Whale and taken in by the stories of his youth, his movies, World War I, etc. Whale, in turn, somewhat enjoys having someone to talk to and to help deal with the memories that have all come rushing back to him at once.

McKellen is sharply droll and unrelentingly interesting, his wry comments on everything never cease to amuse. Redgrave is also good as the maid who cares for Whale even though she knows he's going to hell for his unspeakable buggering. The film also manages to depict the strange folly of celebrity and how people react to it.

The main story, though, is Whale trying to hold on to his dignity, the last thing he has left, with wit and candor as he nears his end, and the despondency that comes with the realization of that effort's futility. His attempts to turn Boone into his own Frankenstein monster in order to end his own misery show us the desperation he has been reduced to, and the tragedy it is to see it happen to such a vital and scintillating fellow.

Once again, Ian McKellen is wonderful. That's really all you need to know.

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