Reel Affirmations 2003
Review by Randy Shulman
Rating: (5 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/25/2003, 8:00 PM
Feature presentation, $15 at Lincoln Theatre
C.J. COX’S SMART, sexy and superb drama about the profound, life-altering impact a gay, sexually predatory Los Angeles party boy has on a rigid but primed-to-explore hunky Mormon missionary (and vice-versa) has something for everyone: an insufferably cute cast; compelling leading performances from a couple of fresh-scrubbed unknowns (who look incredibly good naked); and sturdy supporting performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Third Rock from the Sun) as a virulently homophobic Mormon, Erik Palladino (ER) as a bitter gay man enduring the final stages of AIDS, Jacqueline Bisset as a restaurateur who dispenses matronly wisdom a la carte, and the always wonderful Mary Kay Place, who gives the most searing performance of her career.
Latter Days is a powerhouse that, despite a few first-time filmmaking missteps (fast-motion transitions), grabs you by the heart — hard — and refuses to let go. Who knew Cox, author of Sweet Home Alabama, had this much talent? Clearly, when he’s not writing Hollywood tripe, he’s attempting to bring actual meaning to our lives, intelligently and without sacrificing entertainment value. Latter Days not only affirms the gay state of being, it explores it with an honesty and integrity not typically found in such glossy Hollywood-aimed commodities.
“It doesn’t have to mean anything,” whispers Christian (Wesley Ramsey) to the nervous Mormon Aaron Davis (Steve Sandvoss) as they gravitate toward a sexual rendezvous.
“Yes,” Davis replies, soberly. “It does.”
Later, Davis, excommunicated for “the grave and grievous sin of homosexuality,” tells his brittle mother (Place), “What if it’s is not something I’ve done? What if it’s who I am?” What follows is one of the most bracing confrontations between mother and son in the history of gay-themed cinema.
Dig a little deeper into Latter Days and you’ll find the movie that M. Night Shyalaman’s Signs was meant to be — sans alien attacks — as Cox deftly explores the links between coincidence and destiny, fate and miracles, love and loss.
There won’t be a dry eye in the house at the conclusion of Latter Days, itself a fitting conclusion to some of the finest days yet in the thirteen year history of Reel Affirmations.