A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
The yard man looks a little like Frankenstein's monster, with his hulky body and flat-top haircut. Of course he's more handsome. The old man sizes him up, invites him to tea, is friendly: "Feel free to use the pool. We're quite informal here -- no need to use a bathing suit." We are listening to the last hopeful sigh of a dying romantic, an aging homosexual who is still cheered by the presence of beauty.
"Gods and Monsters" is a speculation about the last days of the director James Whale, who was open about his sexuality in an era when most homosexuals in Hollywood stayed prudently in the closet. Whale (1889-1957) directed some 21 films, but is best remembered for seven made between 1931 and 1939: "Frankenstein," "The Old Dark House," "The Invisible Man," "Bride of Frankenstein," "Show Boat," "The Great Garrick" and " The Man in the Iron Mask." At the time of his death he had not made a movie in 16 years, but still lived comfortably, dabbling at a little painting and a little lusting.
He made some good movies ("Frankenstein" placed 87th on the American Film Institute's list of great American films, although "The Bride of Frankenstein" is by far the better of the two pictures). He began as an actor, lost his first love in World War I and joined the exodus to Hollywood, where he made a lot of money and never quite realized his potential. He must have seemed an attractive challenge to Ian McKellen, the gifted British Shakespearean who in this film and "Apt Pupil" is belatedly flourishing in the movies after much distinction on the stage.
McKellen playing Whale makes sense, but is it ideal casting to use Brendan Fraser ("George Of The Jungle") as Clayton Boone, the young man who comes to cut the grass? Fraser is subtle and attuned to the role, but doesn't project strong sexuality; shouldn't the yard man be not simply attractive but potentially exciting to the old man? We never ever believe there's a possibility that anything physical will occur between them--and we should, I think.