“Do you ever read the Sunday comics? The comic page? When I was a little kid I used to put my face right up to them, you know, and I was just amazed because it was just this mass of dots. I think that life is like that, sometimes. But I would like to think that from God’s perspective, life, everything, and even this, makes sense. It’s not just dots. Instead, were all connected. And it’s beautiful, and it’s funny, and it’s good. From this close, we can’t expect it to make sense right now.”
-Aaron, Latter Days
A little more than two weeks ago, while my friend Sandro [check out his blog Jesus Jokes] was parking his car in front of Owee’s house which was located across a Mormon church, I noticed that there were guys playing basketball at the court located within the Mormon compound. And I went like, “Oh, Mormons playing basketball. I wonder if anyone’s cute?” To which he responds, “Oh come on, Niki. You don’t like Mormons, you’re just saying that because of that movie with that guy playing a Mormon.” Giving out a laugh, I opened the car door with my eyes having one last look at the guys across the street before proceeding to Owee‘s birthday party. Looking back on that, the barefoot baklesa thinks it best to share this movie for those who have not seen it yet.
Latter Days holds a special place in my heart; I call it my lucky movie. Back in the day when I used to frequent the pirated DVD stalls at Makati Cinema Square around four years ago, I asked my usual supplier if she has a copy of Latter Days, and she was nice enough to go up the upper floors to a friend’s stall to find one for me. As luck would have it, they only have one copy left. Back then, the pirated copies were as good as the originals with all the menus and features intact; and I treated that copy like it was the holy grail of my gay cinema collection. After acquiring that copy, less than an hour later, I received a call from Peque Gallaga about an interview for a production design job for a television fantasy series later that afternoon. Needless to say, I got the job… Lucky me! [fast forward to a few months later at the virgin megastore in new york, in the quest to have an original copy, the store had to have a copy shipped from somewhere so the barefoot baklesa could have the original DVD....thanks, ate carol!]
I think the introduction has gone on long enough, let’s get to the movie review. Latter Days is the brainchild of C. Jay Cox, writer of the comedy hit Sweet Home Alabama [which also happens to have a gay character played by the loveable Ethan Embry]. Latter Days is the story of Aaron [Steve Sandvoss], a handsome Mormon missionary who just began his ministry of going door to door to talk to people about his church; and Christian [Wes Ramsey], the definition of a West Hollywood party boy who moves from one sexual conquest to another without the heart for commitment. These two could not be any more different, and you know what they say about opposites; they do attract.
Of the four Mormon missionaries that moved next door, one of them turns out to be sexually conflicted. And when Christian [the writer had to name him that, huh] takes a bet with his friends that he can seduce the tightly wound Mormon neighbor, the seduction goes a bit awry. Christian does find out that Aaron is attracted to him but it got a bit complicated. And you’re going to love these lines [personally I thought these made it a gay movie]:
Aaron: I’m saying I know how retarded you think I am, okay! You’ve found me out, alright -my worst secret- Now, I’m humiliated so your work is done here.
Christian: Wait, I don’t think you’re a dork. But if you know how ridiculous you look, why would you-
Aaron: Don’t you believe in anything?
Aaron: Then tell me! Tell me one thing in your life, beyond the shadow of a doubt that you really believe.
Christian: I believe that Ann Margret has never been given her due as an actress.
Aaron: Duh! For Tommy alone…I mean, did you see it when she was -But is that something you can build a life on!?! Look at yourself. You’re so pretty and colorful on the outside but on the inside, you’re nothing but fluff. You’re like a walking-talking marshmallow peep.
Christian: That’s not fair!
Aaron: It doesn’t matter when it’s true! I can’t believe what I was just about to do when there is nothing, Christian, nothing about you that is not skin deep.
I admit, I have been staring at the computer screen for an hour now -not knowing how to proceed with this- while the movie is playing on my DVD player. It’s not that I’m distracted but more like if I put it to words, Latter Days is the kind of gay romance drama that you have to experience for yourself. It’s one of those movies that I have seen without the swirling mist in my head conjuring the sentinels of movie critiquing to shoot down the mediocrities that come across the screen [wow, this sentence is soooo me].
…and we’re back.
From then on, Christian begins this quest to prove that he is not as shallow as Aaron thinks he is. It’s like the tables turned on him for a bit when he volunteers for this thing called Project Angel Food; that delivers meals to people living with HIV complications. There’s that twilight zone freakish bit when Keith, the guy he delivers food to says, “Snow… It’s all just snow.” after he accidentally grabs Christian’s arm. The writer’s intention here was to point out that there’s still -call it- magic or miracles that happen in our lives that lead us to where we are.
Way before I went gaga over that kiss in The Love of Siam, I was raving about the kiss between Aaron and Christian in this movie. There’s that vulnerability that I saw in Aaron’s character that I feel in love with [Now that I think about it, I feel as if the Steve Sandvoss is giving me that “I feel so betrayed by you” look for replacing him with Mario Maurer… Steve Sandvoss just defines the Abercrombie and Fitch type… drool… Hahahaha!!!]. But that kiss would cost them dearly as they are caught and Aaron had to be sent away in shame to be tried and excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints for the ‘grievous and shameful sin of homosexuality’. Yeah, that still happens at this day and age.
So, in true spur of the moment fashion, Christian runs after Aaron and finds him at an airport somewhere, outside, where it was snowing. I remember this movie for these lines which I have quoted over and over when we have had conversations about religion and being gay and finding a balance to it:
“You want revelations engraved in gold and angels trumpeting down from heaven. What if this is it instead, me telling you ‘I love you’ right here in the snow. I think that’s pretty miraculous.”
I mean, come on, who wouldn’t fall for a guy after he says that, right? Well, unfortunately the movie does not end there. At the risk of me narrating the film scene by scene, let me just say it gets a bit more messy. Someone gets left behind, there’s a brief but disastrous affair with a sharp object, and we’re treated to what happens to people inside those “Christian Change Ministries”… But trust me, the roller coaster ride is worth it.
The supporting cast boasts of performances from the likes of screen legend Jacqueline Bisset, Mary Kay Place [Sweet Home Alabama], and Joseph Gordon-Levitt [Third Rock from the Sun, Mysterious Skin] as well as Erik Palladino and Rob McElhenney [It‘s Always Sunny in Philadelphia]. There are no pretentious camera shots here, nothing too epic to make an effort of, but I think the movie was held together by the acting next to a really great story about love.
Latter Days also came into my life when I was clinging on to a love I know was not mine to hold on to for long. Yes, I did have a heart once… it was one of those movies that I cried to many times over. Later would I find out that that particular love of mine would enter the service of God and I found that a bit -say- ironic now. But what I’m getting at here is that which was engraved in the silver pocket watch Aaron was carrying around and it reads: “And the greatest of all these is Love 1 Corinthians 13-13”
So, Valentines is just around the corner, and if you just plan to stay in and watch a good movie, try this one.