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Latter Days
2004 - R - 97 Mins.
Director: C. Jay Cox
Producer: Jennifer Schaefer
Written By: C. Jay Cox
Starring: Steve Sandvoss, Wes Ramsey, Rebekah Jordan, Jacqueline Bisset, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site: www.latterdaysmovie.com/
   

Do *you* go to church?
From the writer of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ comes a semi-autobiographical film about a closeted young Mormon missionary who arrives in exotic Los Angeles only to meet a slick, shallow gay man who lives next door. In ‘Latter Days,’ both young men are on paths of self-discovery in this uneven but sweet, well-intentioned romantic ‘coming out’ drama.

Steve Sandvoss, looking like a young Christopher Atkins, stars as Aaron, the baby-faced blonde-haired Mormon hunk who is the ultimate stranger in a strange land as he begins his obligatory two-year stint preaching door-to-door in Los Angeles. Wes Ramsey (‘Charmed’) is the ironically named, Christian, a sexually hyperactive gay man whose life is a string of one-night stands. When Christian first spots Aaron, he makes a bet with his co-workers that he can bed a Mormon boy. He soon learns that Aaron wants more than sex – he’s looking for love.

‘Latter Days’ features a strong and interesting supporting cast that includes: Jacqueline Bisset as the owner of an chichi restaurant, Joseph Gordon–Levitt (‘Third Rock from the Sun’) as a hateful Mormon bigot, and veteran Mary Kay Place (‘Sweet Home Alabama’) as Aaron’s narrow-minded mother. Ramsey, who looks like young Richard Hatch - from 'Battlestar Galactica' not the reality series - has the thankless role of playing a shallow narcissist. So is it a compliment to say that he’s convincing in the part?

When ‘Latter Days’ was making the film festival circuit, it garnered attention as an attack on the Mormon Church and its stance against homosexuality as well as its restricted attitudes toward people of color and women. That’s both the film’s strength and weakness – it’s too ambitious and unstructured to effectively score a hit on all counts without being preachy itself. Add a layer of L.A.-centric humor about wannabe actors and singers working as waiters, a subplot about dealing with AIDS, another storyline about euthanasia and you can see that ‘Latter Days’ tries waaaay too hard as a gay romantic drama heavy with social political commentary that's just beyond the capabilities of writer/director C. Jay Cox’s directorial debut.

There’s also a cornball pop soundtrack that unfortunately has an integral part to play with the plot. Christian’s roommate, Julie (Rebekah Jordan), is an aspiring singer so a song ends up being a clumsy plot device like a 80’s flashback to ‘Fame.’

But aside from the occasional aural assault, ‘Latter Days’ earnestness surpasses its shortcomings. Aaron learns about love outside his strict church upbringing, and Christian learns about intimacy. The film relies on its often reflective and intelligent dialogue (you'll get deep doses of Cox's views on religion and spirituality) as well as the considerable sweetness and charm of its star, Sandvoss – he is particularly memorable in a heart wrenching ‘coming out’ confrontation scene with his mother. Flaws and all though, ‘Latter Days’ is a worthwhile drama, which preaches that life and love - in any form - are compatible with a loving, tolerant God.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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