JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Latter Days (Director/Writer: C. Jay Cox) - May 29, 2004

Latter Days

1 1
110 min.

Reviewed for the 2004 Inside Out Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival
Connecting these dots yields cliché-overloaded disaster

It's tempting to just skip this flick. “If you haven't anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.” But that wouldn't be true; there is much merit, unfortunately, it's smothered by a huge flaw.

As a first-time outing (get it?) for C. Jay Cox (writer/director), one can only look forward to his second feature. The film looks fabulous thanks to Carl Bartels' vibrant and shot-savvy camera, coupled with John Keitel's clean edits, and sounds great (Eric Allaman has co-ordinated a soundtrack that works well, even if the lyrics tend to reinforce the substance-lite script). The problem is the writing.

The conversion follies of a quartet of Mormon boys plunked into L.A. beside a hedonistic homo who prefers volume over attachment from his ongoing parade of buff, if bland, one-night stands has promise. But it fails miserably in the delivery as, like commercials on TV, we soon reach for the remote to mute the dialogue whenever the competent cast looks like they are about to speak.

Let's start with the leads and their names: confused-Mormon Aaron (alluringly played by Steve Sandvoss); shallow stud-hunk, awaiting redemption Christian (Wes Ramsey seems happier with a tongue you-know-where than morphing into a caring human being); restaurant-owner, “free spirit” Lila (Jacqueline Bisset who, in a scene that falls flatter than the mid-West, accepts Aaron's hanky for non-existent tears, even after she has just pulled the plug on a dying friend)—will Robert Pirsig demand royalties (or launch a defamation suit?).

A bit of dialogue? Having been outed with their first kiss (never leave the door open, kids—your roommates might just walk in ...), Aaron is sent back home to Utah to face the consequences. At his trial (naturally, his father is the head Mormon) he declaims “I wish my shame was enough for both of us,” while the cut-away shot has Christian's co-worker and wannabe pop star, Julie (perky Rebekah Jordan), singing “Another beautiful day in the land of the free.” Both scenes use U.S. flags as prominent parts of the set. Yikes!

Of the supporting cast, it's the HIV+ characters that steal the show: Khary Payton plays the smart-cracking waiter, Andrew, brilliantly and Erik Palladino makes the most of his lines (“I used to be you!”) as the reclusive full-blown-AIDS-shut-in, Keith, who eventually shows Christian that there's more to life than the gym and blow jobs.

The BIG sex scene starts poorly as the pair—alone at last due to a so-convenient snow storm—efficiently undress themselves as if preparing for a rugby match, but once bare and aroused appear to have been lovers for decades—perhaps Aaron's fellow Elders only pretended to be homophobes and have been secretly banging each other for years—“Praise the Lord, pass the lube!”

With so much talent both in front and behind the camera, the cast and crew should consider this venture a mere rehearsal for their next effort where the dots will be connected after overcoming some gritty situations that are based in real life and not the Sunday colour comics that, well, even a child could draw. JWR

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Reader's Forum
April 22, 2005

OK the script was not perfect, but it is a wonderful film.  Your review was way off base.  As an English teacher and sometime reviewer, I cannot believe how wrong you were. - R.J.L. (Schenectady, NY)

July 11, 2005

I sincerely disagree with your review.

Being gay and the father of a 21-year-old daughter, I was pleased to finally view a gay movie which didn't evolve completely around drugs, raunchy sex or AIDS. The characters resembled real people fitting into society, instead of trying to create the typical gay stereotype to support their insecurities.

Again, I guess that is why they make Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla! - Michael B. (Dallas, Texas)

August 17, 2005

I found this film a blessing in a world of poorly re-hashed "Philadelphias" or flat-out pornography.  I spent so very long looking for a film like this one, which-to my great glee-treats the sex scenes equal to "straight" sex scenes in films of the same rating.

As for the writing, I found it marvellous, with witty and talented actors and actresses to back it up.  The suicide alone fell into the age-old cliché (which that comment was ... hrmmm) of "Gays are bad, and bad things happen to them"-something Torch Song Trilogy seems to struggle with, at least on the surface.

The message, underlying everything, was simple:  "We're all connected."  Yes, the snow storm was convenient; yes, the song coming on at the exact right moment was convenient.  We cannot base our expectations on the characters making it themselves, as even Gaiman's Sandman needed a lucky break (Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes).  The concept the writer/director plays with is not too unlike that of City of Lost Children , where every action-great and small, deep and shallow-serves a greater purpose.

In short, I disagree.  I do not know who will see this review, let alone this film, but I do find it worth seeing.  Perhaps, it is what we are able to get out of it ... thereby, there is no fault in the film, but instead on the film [re]viewer.

"A sword in the arm might not kill you, but a pen in the esophagus will!" - Brent Englehart; "Mad Hatter" (San Diego, California)

February 2, 2011

I think that your review of Latter Days was the worst review I have ever read in my life. That was a fantastic movie. Coming from a Mormon background and being gay, I had a very emotional connection to that movie which is portrayed with more accuracy than you obviously cared to investigate. That movie has touched the hearts and lives of many homosexuals that come from that background and, obviously, you haven’t had far enough experience to be able to judge it. Tyler U., Pocatello, Idaho