Latter Days (2003)
Genre: Gay Romance
I’m an absolute sucker for coming out stories and especially, apparently, for “religious twink overcoming his background to accept who he is” stories. This film delivers quite nicely. I came to it oddly: I stumbled across a novelization of the film while cruising (so to speak) the gay and lesbian fiction section at Barnes & Noble. Being what I am, I read the end and loved it, so streamed the movie on Netflix. The ending in the novelization was actually better than the ending in the movie (a little more dialogue, a little more emotional depth), but I still wasn’t disappointed in the movie.
Christian is your typical — one might even say stereotypical — gay LA party boy: a gym rat who fucks a new guy every night and has a job as a waiter while he tries to break into acting (I think — not super-clear). (Jacqueline Bisset, BTW, still gorgeous, moonlights as his wisdom-dispensing, snarky boss.) Aaron is a Mormon from Idaho on mission to LA. He lives with three other Elders in the same apartment complex as Christian and Christian and his friends make a bet that Christian can seduce one of the Mormons. He goes after Aaron because Aaron isn’t a blatant homophobe, but Christian’s first attempt at seduction is aborted when he uses his “seducing straight guys” line of “it doesn’t have to mean anything” on Aaron and Aaron balks because, to him, his first kiss, his first sex DOES mean something. Because Aaron is for real. He really believes in his mission, he really believes that he can do some good, and he really believes that things should have meaning. He accuses Christian of being shallow, which, of course, is true, spurring Christian to undergo a Cher-from-Clueless-like shallow-person personality makeover that actually sticks and is quite cute.
When they finally get together, they are, of course, discovered, and Aaron is sent home in disgrace and shame. The emotional violence his mother inflicts on him will haunt me. I know the answer to this, but do people really do this to their children? I guess the question is, HOW can people do this to their children? How can belief overcome what should be unconditional love? How can a mother drive her child to suicide by rejecting him and then not understand that it’s her fault? These scenes were played sparingly and well.
The actor who plays Christian occasionally overacts in the really emotional scenes. The requisite scene in which he tells his own coming out story skirts the edge of farce where I kept expecting him to stop, smile, and say “psych!” which is not necessarily the response the film was attempting to evoke. But all that is nothing when confronted with his sheer prettiness. :) Additionally, the pacing is, at times, odd: slow then superfast, told, not shown — but not distractingly so. And I could have done with a little more lingering over the denouement, but then I’m a emotions-whore.
Fair warning (or, perhaps, enticement): the film is not shy about swearing and even less shy about nudity. Christian and Aaron take off all their clothes and you don’t get just discrete flank shots. While there’s no erect penises, there are certainly penises. And that’s very happy-making! :)
This movie is not a romantic comedy but it’s not a drama either, because it has its happy ending. The themes in this movie are not subtle, but they’re heartwarming and true, nonetheless: interconnectedness and community, character depth and worthiness, how we effect and affect everyone around us. The narrative does a great job of showing how one person’s small, unthinking kindness can work in others for good or ill in an ever-widening web. There are no coincidences, or if there are, they can still serve a purpose. Everything means something, in one way or another.
And love is love is love and deserves to be recognized as such. Grade: B
P.S. I watched this again with my husband and it’s just as much fun the second time around and I felt the emotions more deeply, perhaps because I was comparing it with itself, rather than with the novelization. A happy, feel-good movie with a great message.