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Latter Days

Old 03-07-04, 10:55 PM
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Latter Days

This is a revised review of the one I did for the IMDb that I posted on the Friday the 13th message board:

Latter Days: Not the Type of Film I'd Recommend to Everyone

As the post says, this is not the type of film that I would normally recommend to friends, especially straight ones. But I do realize that there are gay/bisexual or female members on here who may enjoy this film, so I say "what the Hell" and just tell you all.

I had never heard of this film before, and with the plot, it's usually not the type of film I would actually go see because of a fear that people would think I'm gay for going to see it (if you are to ask, I am straight, very comfortable with my sexuality, and have no problems with gays/lesbians whatsoever, but I do not like to be called gay because someone could take it literally and beat the shit outta me because of it). The only reason I saw it was because I had free passes to this over a month ago. So, I invited a friend and just went. Sometimes, it's cool to go see a film and not know what it's about because you won't know what to expect and you won't have any pre-conceived expectations.

To me, Latter Days is either A) A new way of telling a conventional love story, B) Another look at the never-ending battle between the homosexual and Mormon communities (I swear to God, with the stories I read, those two make the Battle of Mordor seem like a garden party), or C) A little bit of both.

And yes, this movie has been pissing off the Mormons, just like how The Passion of the Christ has been pissing off the Jewish community and The Dreamers and Young Adam have been pissing off people who are offended by the tiniest of things/

The story revolves around the two most opposite people in the universe – Elder Aaron Davis (newcomer Steve Sandvoss), a troubled young Mormon missionary who’s out to spread the “good word” and Christian Markelli (Wes Ramsey, off one of those ABC soaps and the failed Luis Guzmán sitcom), a WeHo gay waiter/party boy who gives the term “shameless slut” a whole new meaning – who meet when Aaron moves to LA with more missionaries to spread the “good word” (how they come to move across from Christian is explained in the hilarious opening moments of the film).

Following the tradition of any romantic comedy, Christian’s friends bet him $50 that he can’t get one of the Mormons into his bedroom. He takes the bet and instantly latches onto Aaron. First, Aaron reveals that he's a big movie buff (his fave being a certain Tony Perkins film). And after a short period of time, Aaron admits to Christian his deepest, darkest secret:

He’s gay. (betcha didn’t see that one coming, but then again, if you didn’t figure that one out just by reading the beginning of the summary, there’s something wrong)

The secret humiliates Aaron and pleases Christian because he’s seemingly all but won the bet. However, Aaron turns him down for being shallow and empty. And then, there’s the usual that you’d expect: Christian changes himself, Aaron is revealed to be gay (in a most compromising situation) and sent home to face the family who would rather he be a serial killer than gay, etc., etc.

The first time director/many times writer is C. Jay Cox. Perhaps you may have heard of him because he is best known for writing that Reese Witherspoon movie from a few years ago (affectionately known to the ladies as Sweet Home Alabama). The film seems to be a fictionalized version of his own life, since he is, in fact, a gay ex-Mormon. It’s not really a drama, but more of a typical romantic comedy. And it does have some very witty dialogue throughout (not as witty as Tarantino, but it comes close).

Aaron: We're not allowed to call or go home for the holidays. They can't visit.
Christian: Wow. Where do I sign up?
Aaron: Hey, I happen to like my family. "After all, a boy's best friend is his mother."
[it dawns on him]
Christian: Psycho! That's Psycho, right? "She goes a bit... mad sometimes. We all go a bit mad sometimes.
Steve Sandvoss, the actor who plays the troubled Aaron, is phenomenal. Seeing him reminded me of some of those other actors and actresses who were doing their first big film and really wowed me, including Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider, Shohreh Aghdashloo in House of Sand and Fog the Bolger sisters in In America, Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, and Ian Somerhalder in The Rules of Attraction (kinda ironic that I mention him since his big debut was playing a bisexual character), because he isn’t afraid to show his acting chops. He plays Aaron as somewhat of a scared young man who wants to do what is right, but also can’t help giving in to the desires that he has suppressed for so long. The rest of the cast is good. Wes Ramsey does a great job as Christian, the flawed party boy who loves himself until he finally understands that there’s more to loving a person than just loving what they’re packing in their pants. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Aaron’s friend and missionary partner who has it in for the gay community (I wonder if the director based this on one single person). Mary Kay Place plays Aaron’s once loving, now bitter and unforgiving mother (and she does a great job of it, though at times, I was highly reminded of Piper Laurie as Margaret White in Carrie). Singer Rebekah Johnson is Christian’s best friend, roommate, aspiring songwriter, and fellow waitress. Amber Benson (just because Tara’s in it doesn’t mean she’s gonna be making out with any girls) is another waitress who wants to get out to act. Erik Palladino is a bitter person dying of complications from AIDS that Christian befriends and . And the most bankable name: Jacqueline Bisset. Her role is small, but very effective as an actress that now manages the swankiest restaurant in L.A. who cares for her friends/waiters and those around her. Believe me, Sandvoss and Ramsey have very good futures before them.

There is a bit of sex in the film (sorry, straight guys, no females lose their tops). The big love scene (though I’m not into guy-on-guy) is done tastefully (it's not like The Dreamers or Y Tu Mamá También, but given a few more minutes, it coulda been like that) in a way that should please most people and there’s nudity to please anyone who finds pleasure in the naked male body.

The best thing about the film, after the great acting jobs and the mostly-witty dialogue, is the music. A mix of original score and songs written by Cox, it’s a surprisingly memorable soundtrack (just as memorable as, oh, say, the Lord of the Rings films or Pulp Fiction). It’s not out for release yet, but I will probably get the CD when it comes out because of those oh, so damn catchy songs mainly sung by Rebekah Johnson. The best is the song that becomes the theme of the film, called “Tuesday, 3:00 a.m. (the title is explained in the film’s final reel). In fact, if the producers of this film play their cards right (and if there isn’t any real competition), it could even get a nomination next year for Best Original Song. It’s highly doubtful, but two years ago, no one predicted that Eminem would ever win an Oscar.

I’d definitely recommend this to everyone. It may not be for everyone, but if you seek or find it, give it a try. You may be surprised with what you see.

Included below is the website and the QuickTime trailer (however, the sound quality kinda sucks).

Last edited by ReduxGuy; 06-15-04 at 12:47 PM.
Old 03-08-04, 09:29 AM
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cant wait to see this, it was part of DC Reel Affirmation Gay and Lesbian Film Festival last Fall (which I missed) and has been getting good advance word (opens here in Wash DC this weekend).

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