There once was a young, blond, strapping Mormon missionary who ventured into the big, bad city of angels to spread the good word. He quickly caught the eye and fancy of a non-Mormon-approved homosexual, and a pursuit of debauchery began.
Sounds like the beginnings of a same-sex porn flick. As the film displays male nudity like dime-store candy, it looks that way too, until writer and first-time director C. Jay Cox takes a thoughtful turn (which is more than can be said of his cliché screenplay for Sweet Home Alabama).
In spite of a couple bad choices, Latter Days is funny, tragic, occasionally cheesy, endearing and ultimately heartwarming, dealing with very serious Christian hypocrisy while holding onto a light, life-embracing tone.
Aaron has more sympathy toward alternative lifestyles than his Mormon leaders would like. Without a profound bone in his body, Chris is on a frivolous sleaze trail of no names please sexual encounters headed nowhere. The attraction is immediate, but for Chris, the encounter is more than simply plucking innocent, Idaho-raised Mormon fruits.
Chris and Aaron are each other’s crossroads. In the arms of intimacy, Aaron drives a stake into the heart of Chris’ shallow core when he asks him, “Don’t you believe in anything?” To Aaron, a relationship with Chris would be like giving up his life for a teddy bear.
Latter Days has a few familiar faces on the sidelines, like Jacqueline Bisset as Lila — the aged yet still beautifully elegant restaurant manager — and Joseph Gordon-Levitt from 3rd Rock from the Sun as the callous missionary, and Mary Kay Place as Aaron’s conflicted mother who believes the Christian Change Ministry (the modern-day Mormon answer to the Spanish Inquisition) is her son’s only redemption from anal temptations.
Whether it’s family and religion or a mindless state of existence, it’s a two-sided sacrifice for Aaron and Chris. Latter Days ends up illustrating that starting out with the wrong reasons can turn into righteous results.
Showing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-263-2111.
Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].