Thursday, April 1, 2004

A fit as funny as mormon undies

Movie: Latter Days

Posted on Thu, Apr 1, 2004 at 4:00 AM

****
Our Rating: 4.00

"Latter Days" isn't about love or sex so much as it's about a sexual culture clash. Gay stud muffin Christian (Wes Ramsey) regards sex as an enjoyable pastime and will seduce anyone who wanders into his sights, just to stay in shape. Into his West Hollywood apartment complex moves Elder Aaron Davis (Steve Sandvoss) from Pocatello, Idaho, along with three missionary buddies, to do his required two-year stint in L.A. and to agonize over whether he will ever get laid. Worse, the 19-year-old is "confused about his sexuality," which is code talk for a closet case, and Pocatello is no place to be gay. At least God sent him to the right town.

Christian's new playmates roughhouse and generally paint an evil picture of the Mormon doctrine to everyone they meet -- as missionaries to L.A., you're surprised they don't just get tossed in the La Brea tar pits by irate locals. Well, we can all see where this is heading, and a $50 bill says Christian can retrieve a pair of Holy Joseph Smith-brand undies from Aaron, a bet that leads to romance and a seedy night in a Salt Lake City airport hotel.

Beautifully filmed and filled with crisply defined characters, this movie is a joy to watch even if the Homosexual Cruiser Finds True Love story doesn't resonate. There's a great supporting cast of upcoming and washed-out actresses -- Mary Kay Place as Steve's über-Mormon mom, Jacqueline Bisset as the restaurant owner who breaks down in front of Aaron after the death of her friend, and Rebecca Jordan as Julie, Christian's platonic roommate. Even the lighting is perfect, and the view of L.A. is enough to make you want to move there (until you see what it costs).

There are a few minor flaws. While fairly graphic sex scenes are embedded in Latter Days, the guys' penises have all been digitally edited out, which gives the principals a weird, Ken-like aura as they clean up after sex. The movie also gets a bit maudlin at the end, with Aaron rejected by his entire hometown and fleeing into Christian's pecs in tears. Protestations of love in the dramatic SLC snow aside, I have trouble buying any sort of commitment from Christian -- he knows he's good, and Aaron will get eaten alive in the Hollywood social scene.

Still, this is an engaging and funny film with real characters and a complex plot. While your mom may not approve, it's worth seeing.

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