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Latter Days

Mon 31 May 2004 In: Movies

LATTER DAYS Dir: C J Cox, USA, 2003, 35mm, 110mins Well, the Mormons didn't like this one too much. It's a film in which a young Mormon missionary from Idaho moves to LA to spread the word of Jesus (the Mormon version of it anyhow) and hooks up with a screamingly gay party-boy Adonis who has a bet on with his mates that he can bed a god-botherer. But what was it that exactly that the Mormons weren't happy about? The idea that one of their number could be turned to the dark side and be "seduced by homosexuality"? The portrayal of Mormon missionaries as kids who don't believe in what they're doing and just want to get their tour of duty over and done with so they can get married and finally get laid? People finding out that Mormon ex-gay therapy really is that despicable? Or perhaps they're just pissed off at being in a bad movie. You see, Latter Days is a film that has come under fire from other reviewers for its clunky screenplay and patchy performances, and they're not far wrong. There are cringeworthy moments aplenty, but director Cox can almost be forgiven for creating Mormon missionary Aaron, quite possibly one of the most beautiful and affecting characters in modern gay cinema. One imagines that this is because Cox is a former missionary himself, and is writing about what he knows. Aaron is not the stereotypical closet-case religious character. He's not struggling to deny his homosexuality in a hand-wringing manner, he knows it's there. He also knows what he would be giving up if he were to be true to himself. He also believes in God, in life, in a purpose for being. So why, for the most part, doesn't this film work? For starters, the story relies too heavily on cliches and coincidences to grind it along. Vacuous, promiscuous Christian (get the irony, kids?) works in a restaurant, run by the matriarchal wine-swilling Lila (Jacqueline Bisset), in a paper-thin character that's a cross between the sweet old restaurant owner from “The Broken Hearts Club” and someone out of “Dynasty”. Christian is bet $50 that he can't bed Aaron by the end of the week, and he tries his best, but in the process falls in love. Well, apparently – there's no real visible evidence of how this happens. Christian's best friend is a singer/songwriter looking to make it big, which means we get truly icky Dawson's Creek-esque songs running throughout the movie whenver we have an “emotional moment”. One of these songs is also the catalyst for a major turning point near the end of the movie, which is so laughably implausible even the romantic in me was reaching for the sickbag. The movie isn't sure what it's trying to be. What starts a romantic comedy turns into a serious drama as soon as Aaron's family finds out he has committed the cardinal sin of homosexuality. Aaron's scene with his mother when he tries to make her realise that this is who he is is heartbreaking. When the film focuses on Aaron, it truly fires. The only question hanging above Aaron's head is why he would have such feelings for Christian – for a character that proclaims to want a meaningful relationship, and berates Christian for being shallow, what is it that keeps him coming back? The ridiculously short shorts? Latter Days is, overall, disappointing because of what it could have been. Aaron's character shows that Cox could have crafted a truly affecting movie, but allowed himself to fall prey to easy stereotypes and resolutions. Chris Banks - 31st May 2004    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Monday, 31st May 2004 - 12:00pm

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