Gods and Monsters
By Kat Halstead,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Haunting biopic has language, nudity, predatory behavior.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie touches on the importance of connection and understanding, as well as living as your authentic self. It also shows how past trauma and fear of your own mortality can lead to damaging behavior. Abuse of power is used in instances of predatory sexual behavior.
Positive Role Models
James Whale lives as his authentic self and is openly gay at a time when those around him were not, though he does display some predatory behavior. His housekeeper, Hanna, is loyal are caring, but voices religious beliefs that he will go to hell because of his sexuality. Whale's gardener, Clayton Boone, adheres to some stereotypes, portrayed as physically strong and kind, but not particularly bright.
Violence & Scariness
Flashback scenes of wartime combat include shooting, explosions, and numerous dead bodies. Medical scans are shown, and strokes and burst appendix referenced. Brain operations are seen in clips from the Frankenstein movies. A physical altercation involves a character being punched and another trapped in a gas mask and sexually assaulted. Suicidal thoughts are implied and a dead body is seen floating in a pool.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexual references and conversations throughout. Sexual intercourse is briefly portrayed in the darkness. Full-frontal male nudity. A character is coerced into removing items of clothing in return for information.
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Language includes "f--k," "f--king," and "s--t." Also "bugger," "pr--ks," and "bloody." Homophobic language such as "flaming queens" is also used.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke cigarettes and cigars fairly frequently, and alcohol is consumed with meals, at gatherings, and in bars. Prescription pills are taken, with a character considering an overdose at one point.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Gods and Monsters is an excellent biopic about the final days of Frankenstein director James Whale, and includes strong language, nudity, and predatory sexual behavior. Set in 1950s Hollywood, it focuses on Whale's (Ian McKellen) difficulties with illness and aging, and the attitudes toward homosexuality at the time -- Whale was openly gay. Strong language includes "s--t," "pr--ks," and variants of "f--k," as well as some homophobic slurs. Both World War I and the Korean War are referenced and shooting, explosions, and dead bodies are seen in flashback. There are also references to suicide, and a dead body is seen in a pool. Whale displays predatory sexual behavior. In one scene, he only agrees to be interviewed if the journalist removes a piece of clothing for every question he asks. Later he aggressively tries to grab the genitals of his gardener, Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser). Characters smoke and drink -- though are not seen intoxicated -- and prescription drugs are also consumed. With adult themes of mortality, trauma, and loneliness, the movie may not be appropriate or enjoyable for a younger audience.
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Gods and Monsters
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What's the Story?
In GODS AND MONSTERS, aging Hollywood director James Whale (Ian McKellen) has withdrawn from the movie industry. Following a stroke, Whale spends his time painting and enjoying the company of younger men. When his housekeeper, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave), hires new gardener Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser) to work on the estate, the two strike up a complex relationship that leads Whale to relive his past and face the difficulties of his future.
Is It Any Good?
Writer and director Bill Condon imagines the final days of iconic filmmaker James Whale with an elegance, charm, and haunting dignity that earned him an Oscar for best screenplay. Adapted from the novel Father of Frankenstein, Gods and Monsters explores the relationship between Whale and his monster, shown through on-set flashbacks and the passing resemblance he sees in Fraser's hulking silhouette.
McKellen is perfectly cast in the lead role. A twinkle in his eye and a great sense of whimsy stolen from his youth are gracefully balanced with a flash of nastiness and hopelessness that comes with his status as an ailing outcast. Both he and Redgrave were Oscar nominated for their performances, the latter giving an intricate portrayal of a housekeeper whose caring nature and love for her employer is directly at odds with her bigoted views. Part biography, part fantasy, part meditation on the true nature of inner monsters, life, death, and art, this is a sensitive and compelling study of an iconic industry figure.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the strong language used in Gods and Monsters. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?
How was sex portrayed in the movie? Was it affectionate? Respectful? How were attitudes toward homosexuality portrayed in the movie and how do they compare to today's?
Discuss the character of Whale. Why might his sexual behavior be described as predatory or an abuse of power? How to talk about sexual harassment with tweens and teens.
Both Whale and Boone served in different wars. How did their experiences affect them? How to talk to kids about violence, crime, and war.
- In theaters: November 4, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: June 17, 2003
- Cast: Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave
- Director: Bill Condon
- Studio: Lions Gate
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual material and language
- Awards: Academy Award, Golden Globe
- Last updated: June 3, 2023
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