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Latter Days (Not Rated) (2004)

Funny Boy Films

Official Site

Director: C. Jay Cox

Producers: Kirkland Tibbels, Jennifer Schaefer

Written by: C. Jay Cox

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 line.

—Emily Younger


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