Latter Days

How can one come out as a gay person? The process is especially difficult for Mormons, which condemn homosexuality to the point of excommunicating those who practice same-sex conduct. Latter Days, directed and written by C. Jay Cox, is an unlikely love story between a Mormon missionary and a West Hollywood slut. Elder Aaron Davis (played by Steve Sandvoss), presumably having recently graduated from school, has recently been sent from Pocatello, Idaho, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be a missionary in Hollywood. He joins three Mormons in an apartment in the hills; living nearby, muscular Christian (played by Wesley A. Ramsey) swishes past in the daytime and brings tricks home in the nighttime, though he lives with a female African American roommate. Christian is a waiter at what appears to be a gay West Hollywood restaurant. En route to his new home away from home, Aaron happens to see Christian at the restaurant from his taxi window, a subliminal encounter. Christian cruises Aaron as soon as he moves into the apartment. Unsubtle dialog in the laundry room and on the stairs outside the apartments raises Aaron’s curiosity, but he objects that he has spiritual ideals unlike hedonistic Christian. Unable to seduce Aaron, Christian shares his frustration with his roommate and gay coworkers, and soon a bet is on; if Christian does not sleep with Aaron, he will have to bus tables for a year, but a successful seduction will garner him $50. Two subplots emerge to help the story along. At one point, Aaron runs into Lila (played by Jacqueline Bisset), the owner of the restaurant; although she does not know that Aaron is the one whom Christian is pursuing, she gives some maternal advice. And, frustrated in his pursuit, one of Christian’s coworkers suggests that he might prove that he is not shallow and add some meaning to his life by volunteering for Project Angelfood, a Los Angeles charity that supplies delicious meals to homebound AIDS patients; one of his clients, cancer-suffering Keith (played by Erik Palladino), in turn provides paternal advice. The new Christian then shocks a late night trick by wanting to converse before sex. One day, Christian accidentally cuts his bubble butt on an object in the garden; Aaron offers to apply first aid to the muscular jockstrapped posterior in the privacy of Christian’s apartment. Later, Christian visits Aaron’s apartment and takes advantage of the opportunity to attempt a kiss, which is reciprocated just as the door opens, and his three Mormon roommates view the forbidden contact. Aaron then is forced to fly back to Pocatello, is rejected by his parents, is put on trial (wherein he reminds the Elders that Mormon polygamy is an early alternative lifestyle), and is locked up in a mental institution to eradicate his homosexual impulses. Absence makes hearts grow fonder, so two broken hearts need to be mended, and only Christian is in a position to take the initiative. Ryder, the most vocal homophobic missionary (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), even reveals his latent homosexual tendencies by assisting Christian in locating Aaron to avoid a tragic Romeo-and-Juliet ending. Nevertheless, there are three puzzles in the script. One is why the tagline is “Aaron likes to pray. Christian likes to play. Opposites Attract.”? In fact, Christian stops playing to be more attractive, though the film provides very little footage to demonstrate that transformation. Secondly, why would a gay airhead be so interested in yet another Mormon, and why would a masculine Mormon be initially turned on by a West Hollywood type that many gays in Los Angeles would find too swishy despite his muscles? A masculine gay portrayal would be more believable. The third puzzle is why Aaron does not immediately seek refuge with Christian rather than allowing himself to be deported to Idaho, but of course otherwise Latter Days would not have such a gloriously romantic ending. MH

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