Latter Days

A handsome young Mormon missionary leaves the sticks of Idaho for the Sodom of L.A., but instead of doing the Lord's work, he winds up falling for a hunky, promiscuous waiter. Sounds like the plot of yet another oh-so-heartfelt coming-out drama — or particularly prurient porn loop — but screenwriter C. Jay Cox's (Sweet Home Alabama) directorial debut...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A handsome young Mormon missionary leaves the sticks of Idaho for the Sodom of L.A., but instead of doing the Lord's work, he winds up falling for a hunky, promiscuous waiter. Sounds like the plot of yet another oh-so-heartfelt coming-out drama — or particularly prurient porn loop — but screenwriter C. Jay Cox's (Sweet Home Alabama) directorial debut is actually a surprisingly sensitive story of faith and spiritual growth. Embarking on their required two-year mission, 19-year-old Elder Aaron Davis (promising newcomer Steve Sandvoss) and three of his fellow missionaries (including Third Rock from the Sun's Joseph Gordon-Levitt) move into a garden apartment directly across the way from Christian (Wes Ramsey), a handsome waiter who spends a much his time either at the gym or in bed with strangers. When Christian spots the four, clean-cut "hicks" unpacking their gear, he bets his co-workers $50 that he can bed at least one of them. The most likely candidate appears to be Elder Davis; his first name is Aaron, but he's forbidden by the Church of the Latter Day Saints to use it. That's just one of a long list of LDS-enforced prohibitions, the strongest of which includes homosexuality, but that doesn't stop virginal Aaron from tentatively accepting Christians bold advances. Just when Christian is about to clinch the deal, it's Aaron who seizes control: He rejects Christian's offer of meaningless sex, telling him that his chronic promiscuity is a sign of not just shallow vanity, but a deeper emptiness. Wounded, but taking Aaron's insight to heart, Christian begins delivering meals to house-bound AIDS patients, and soon Aaron is back his arms. And this time it does mean something: Christian has fallen in love. The rug is suddenly yanked from under the happy couple when Aaron's fellow missionaries catch them kissing; Aaron is shipped home to his parents (Jim Ortlieb and the always excellent Mary Kay Place), while Christian rushes to Salt Lake City in hopes of intercepting Aaron before he boards his connecting flight to Idaho. The film's frank treatment of the LDS's views on homosexuality (attitudes recently explored in Arthur Dong's excellent documentary FAMILY FUNDAMENTALS), not to mention a few graphic sex scenes, has caused quite a stir in Utah, where there have been a number of attempts to ban distribution. But it's far from an LDS-bashing diatribe. Cox, a fifth-generation Mormon whose own story isn't too far from that of Elder Davis, shows how much of Aaron's strength derives directly from his faith, while even the most homophobic of Cox's characters demonstrate a capacity for both charity and, possibly, change.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A handsome young Mormon missionary leaves the sticks of Idaho for the Sodom of L.A., but instead of doing the Lord's work, he winds up falling for a hunky, promiscuous waiter. Sounds like the plot of yet another oh-so-heartfelt coming-out drama — or partic… (more)

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