Cast: Wesley A. Ramsey, Steve Sandvoss, Jacqueline Bisset,
Erik Palladino, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rebekah Johnson
Latter Days is the heart-wrenching tale of two star-crossed
and heterosexually-impaired lovers caught in a world of
canned dialogue and Keanu Reeves-ish acting. My friend
claimed it was like “Saved By the Bell: The Gay Cast,”
but I personally have to go with a homosexual She’s
All That. Regardless of which analogy proves the most
accurate, though, the outcome as a whole is purely laughable.
Even my normally placid fellow moviegoers burst into disbelieving
laughter at certain points, thus confirming my initial suspicions
regarding the film’s quality. I was greatly surprised
by its utter triteness due to the fact that it was both
written and directed by the screenwriter of Sweet Home
Alabama. Now I’m not saying that SHA was
exactly the pinnacle of filmmaking, but it’s definitely
of a higher grade than this just-out-of-film-school piece.
The movie focuses on the truly absurd love affair between
a L.A. playboy and the young Mormon missionary who moves
in next door. Ramsey plays Christian, a quintessential
pretty-boy with Gold’s Gym muscles, Pantene hair,
and a Ron Jeremy libido. Waiting tables at a postage-stamp
bistro called Lila’s, Christian spends his time gabbing
with the gang, shooting smartass remarks and charming his
tough-but-fair boss (Bisset), and partying like a
Rick James superfreak with his roommate Julie (Johnson).
Cue Elder Aaron Davis (Sandvoss), a somewhat shy
and thoroughly wholesome Mormon from Smalltown, U.S.A. The
earnest young Aaron seems completely immune to Christian’s
charms, which fascinates Mr. Popular enough to bet $50 on
the conquest. (Somewhere in L.A. Freddie Prinze, Jr.
is saying, “Hey, that”s one of my insensitive
teenager roles!”) Then, of course, Aaron’s goodness
rubs off on the bronzed young man, and he suddenly realizes
that there’s more to life than just sex and hair products.
Likewise, Christian teaches Aaron to stop hiding behind
social conformity and to live life the way he wants
instead of how his parents and his religion direct him.
Aren’t life lessons swell?
The contrived and the cliché abound in this movie,
both in its characters and its conflicts. A crippled ex-party-boy
(Palladino) causes Christian to question his beliefs;
Julie strives to “make it big” with her music
in L.A. (I guess she never heard of “American Idol”);
Ryder’s (Gordon-Levitt from “Third Rock
from the Sun”) religious anti-homosexual hostility
constantly befuddles Aaron’s angsted nature; and Lila
struggles to keep a tough facade in front of “the
kids” despite some very tragic event that is actually
pretty vague and irrelevant but I guess furthers character
development. Then there’s this whole mystical, Oracle-from-The-Matrix
schtick that just does not work and really has no
purpose anyway—well, other than keeping me in stitches,
I guess. If I got paid for eye-rolls, this movie would have
made me a very rich woman indeed.
I think Latter Days’ main problem is that
it tries to combine about a million genres into one story.
If “Friends,” Romeo and Juliet, Tuesdays
with Morrie, Glitter, and, oh I don’t know,
some movie about being strong in the face of adversity,
had a drunken orgy, Latter Days would be its misshapen
“oops” baby. The movie attempts to give off
a big blockbuster feel while maintaining its status as an
independent film, resulting only in an awkward identity
crisis that pretty much robs it of any believability. While
I appreciate what Cox was attempting with Latter
Days—an interesting approach to both gay cinema
and the long-favored love story—it nevertheless fails
to be original simply due to the fact that it borrows from
so many other genres. Casting gay men as the main characters
doesn’t make the movie any more original than casting
Indians or astronauts. It’s the same ol’ story
with a new set of illustrations, and that’s the bottom
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...