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Latter Days has a great setup: a Mormon missionary (Steve Sandvoss) gets assigned to L.A., where he falls in love with his gay neighbor.

Under the Rainbow Banner

Laundry metaphors don't help Latter Days
Laundry metaphors don’t help Latter Days

Jon Krakauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaven sheds some light on the Mormon faith — particularly its extremes, but also on everyday Mormon practices, which are fairly restrictive and out of touch with Los Angeles’ gay culture.

So Latter Days is a culture clash movie, not unlike this week’s The Prince and Me, but far more provocative and, frankly, R-rated. What would happen between a hedonistic fairy and an earnest but curious Mormon? It’s fertile ground for drama, comedy, and spirituality.

Unfortunately, the movie is too amateurish and too melodramatic to ever really sell any of its interesting ideas for longer than a few minutes. A scene will strike a chord, but instead of letting it ring, writer/director C. Jay Cox damps it with contrived dialogue or cheesy humor. It’s so bad sometimes it’s unintentionally funny. The meeting between Aaron the Mormon and Christian the “fairy” (Wesley A. Ramsey) in the laundry room provides one of the film’s attempted metaphors: “we’re colors and whites — we don’t mix.”

Saints and Sinners

The movie also suffers from “too much gay, not enough Mormon.” Although some details of Mormonism are carefully mentioned, mere details don’t really convey the culture I read about in Under the Banner of Heaven. Latter Days portrays gay culture pretty well, but it doesn’t offer any insights on Mormonism, which is used as a movie shorthand for a gay-repressive culture.

For an amateur film, Latter Days isn’t too bad. It’s a nice movie with likeable characters. It’s also a movie that many homosexuals will probably identify with. But unless you’re willing to give it a break, it may disappoint.