Friday, April 23, 2004

An actor called Steve Sandvoss is the saving grace of Latter Days (2003), an extremely mediocre film, written and directed by C. Jay Cox, who seems to have written the screenplay by simply by reaching out into a bag full of Hollywood cliches and randomly choosing one. The story is the ultimate gay fantasy, the party-boy who seduces the cute Mormon missionary and then falls in love with him. And the cliches: there's the standard 50 buck bet, a fag hag who also happens to be a hip African-American, the obligatory sex-scene followed by a string of heart-tugging after-bed talk - need I say more?That, in itself, wouldn't be so bad. A standard romantic comedy, gay or straight, must be based on fantasy. The infuriating thing about Latter Days is that it pretends to be something it's not - a movie about the travails of gay Mormons.

It's not a bad movie, really. Cox's jokes are good, even if it makes all the characters sound the same. And Jacqueline Bisset, Wesley Ramsey, and Rebekah Johnson give pleasing performances, even in roles that scream caricature. It is Sandvoss, however, as the missionary Aaron, who gives the film it's spine. As the confused Mormon, he plays a card-board character with such sweetness and grace that it's impossible not to be moved at times. Consider one such scene where he consoles the distraught Bisset (in one of the film's many highly improbable coincidences) who's just pulled the plug on her ailing boyfriend. He elevates lines lines that seem pulled straight from the pages of a Hallmark greeting card, to something sublime, even profound.

Part of the pleasure of watching the movie came from the audience which consisted mostly of gay men. Somehow this is a movie that cries out to be watched in such company. The jokes seem ten times funnier and the movie rises up a notch from ordinary to fun!!