It will probably be honored as a triumph of filmmaking (and indeed has already one the National Board of Review's Best Picture award), but while Gods and Monsters is a good film, it's really more of a curiosity than a legitimate masterpiece.
The adaptation of a fictionalized account of the final days of director Frank Whale (best known for directing the first two Frankenstein movies), director Condon's story is really a simple one, about Whale's infatuation with his gardner Clay (Fraser). That Whale is a not-so-in-the-closet homosexual is pretty clear up front, but for some reason, Clay can't figure that out.
What follows is a series of encounters between the two, the degeneration of Whale's mind thanks to a stroke, and, most curiously, one dream/fantasy sequence after another, wherein Whale relives his childhood, World War I, and his years in Hollywood.
The dream sequence, long known as the biggest crutch a screenwriter can use, works. At least part-way. Because Whale's mind is going south, we are asked to indulge his fantasies as near-reality for him. Like I say, this works, but only up to a point. After two hours, the device has grown stale and predictable.
Still, Gods is a truly good film with a great cast (McKellan and especially Redgrave, playing Whale's maid, both deserve serious praise), and what must have been a tricky adaptation of the novel on which it was based is also a feat unto itself.
A Whale of a tale.
Taped at a May 14, 2005 concert in Washington, D.C., Margaret Cho: Assassin starts off like her 2000 film I'm the One That I Want with a parade of gushing fans, then segueing into the show itself, but unlike that much more ambitious effort, this film shows a comic treading water. Like many other performers in recent years, George W. Bush's presidency has spurred Cho to cover more political matters, usually a deadly development with comics. Although Cho has always been admirably outspoken in her support of gay and feminist causes, this change of focus to red-blue state matters leaves Assassin dead on arrival. The problem with Cho's tirades on Bush and the Christian right is not her choice of target - they're obviously subjects rife with possibility - but rather her inability to say anything remotely fresh or cutting about them. Bush is stupid? Check. The pro-life right is hypocritical on Terri Schiavo? Check. There is hardly a politically-targeted line in this show which has not already been uttered many times before, and by less talented people; it's like catching a second-rate rerun of The Daily Show.
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