(Review originally written at 7 August 2007)

For some reason James Whale is a sort of a forgotten director. He made some great and well known classics in his career but yet he isn't as appreciate and much remembered as his fellow colleagues from the same period, such as lets say Tod Browning . I mean, if you now say the name James Whale, while anybody really know he was the director of the 1931 "Frankenstein" movie and its perhaps even better sequel "The Bride of Frankenstein"? It therefor is great that a biopic was made about this sort of forgotten and flamboyant, greatly talented director, who was among the best of his time.

It's a great and wonderfully acted movie about James Whale, although I have the feeling that the movie is often more about James Whale's homosexuality than really about his life and career. Of course nothing wrong with a story like that but you can wonder if this at all time is the best approach for a biopic. The movie is also about Whale's final days, although it frequently uses flashbacks. The movie was also more about "Frankenstein" and "The Bride of Frankenstein" than any of Whale's other movies, though he obviously made many more and well known movies, in different genres. But I can understand why they did this. The Frankenstein movies get in this movie linked to Whale's real life and his ideas and views on things. It are of course also the two movies for which he will be always remembered. It's an approach that works great and effective for the movie but again you can wonder, if this is the best approach for a biopic. So perhaps as a biopic this movie isn't entirely effective even though the movie is definitely insightful about the James Whale characters but as a drama and character study this is simply just a great movie to watch.

The entire approach to how the story is told is also great and original. It chooses to tell the story off Whale through the things he tells his gardener, who Whale befriends, though his intentions at first are obviously aimed toward something else. While befriending the gardener Whale looks back on his life and career and gives his own personal views and ideas of things, of course also mainly regarding homosexuality. Whale was one of the few openly gay high society and public persons of his time, which might very well have meant also the downfall of his career. The approach doesn't sound like a logical one or engaging one but it works out extremely well and is really effective in the movie. The script, by Bill Condon himself, also won an Oscar.

The movie gets mostly carried by its actors. Ian McKellen was a great choice for the main lead and he gives one fine performance. It was a real big gamble to cast Bredan Fraser in a this sort of role, after appearing mostly in weak simple comedies before his role in this movie. Brendan Fraser never have been at his best in serious type of roles but he handles this role well. It also isn't a completely heavy and serious type of role, which also makes the movie easier and more pleasant to watch.

The movie does have its slower moments, especially in the beginning of the movie but nevertheless Bill Condon shows he's a capable director by making every sequence work and keep things flowing well, despite the use of flashbacks, that normally also slow down movies. He also makes sure that the movie never becomes too heavy.

The flashbacks and more dreamy like of sequences are all good looking and fit in with the rest of the movie. But perhaps with the exception of it's WW I moments. I don't know, for some reason WW I fighting sequences always look kind of cheap and fake, like they are shot in studios. Guess WW I is just a very hard war to capture and translate to the silver screen. Might also explain why there are actually so little movies regarding WW I.

A greatly made and acted movie, that really deserves to be seen.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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