'Latter Days': Men in Love

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Let's hear it for old-fashioned values. Prefiguring the latest hot-button issue in the gay rights movement -- which these days seems to be the fight for the right for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, to become part of a boring old married couple if he or she wants to -- "Latter Days" is a gay-themed romance with a decidedly "Ozzie and Harriet" bent.

Set in the hedonistic mecca of Southern California, "Latter Days" starts off looking like the story of a sybaritic gay Adonis (Wesley A. Ramsey) who, spurred by a wager with some of his co-workers, sets out to seduce the hunky Mormon missionary (Steve Sandvoss) who has moved into the apartment across the way. Of course, the effort to "turn" someone always cuts both ways. Even as the promiscuous Christian -- that's his name, by the way, not his religion -- sets out to lure the straight-laced (but sexually ambiguous) Aaron into bed, Aaron sets out on the process of converting Christian. And I'm not talking about religious proselytizing either. It turns out that the virginal Aaron is, in fact, already gay, if inexperienced. Unlike Christian, though, he isn't cheap, and he doesn't want his first sexual encounter to be something with as little emotional involvement as a transaction at a fast-food takeout window. The two get as far as a kiss, until each discovers what the other expects and the whole thing falls apart. Lo and behold, Christian, whose friendship with Aaron up to that point had seemed little more than the feint of an incorrigible Lothario, starts to realize that he has feelings for this cornfed blond boy from the heartland.

Writer-director C. Jay Cox's story is tartly told, and the mostly unknown cast is solid. (Jacqueline Bisset plays the mother-hen owner of the restaurant where Christian works, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mary Kay Place's characters are one-dimensional bigots.) Although the rest of the story plays out with melodramatic predictability, it's timely, not to mention refreshing, to see an affirmation of true love over hot sex, along with a reminder that the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

LATTER DAYS (Unrated, 108 minutes) -- Contains nudity, sexuality and obscenity. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company