While we languish on our sofas, waiting for the arrival of GayTV, C. Jay Cox's "Latter Days" might tell us how one of its movie-of-the-weeks might look. Actually, because the coming-out story is the only one ever told, it's more like, "same movie, different week."
"Latter Days," in its limited imagination, offers the enjoyable, improbable, but certainly not impossible tale of Aaron (Steve Sandvoss), a well-scrubbed Mormon missionary who falls in love with his neighbor, a slutty Los Angeles waiter and fashion victim named Christian (Wes Ramsey). (That name must have made the falling a lot easier.)
Aaron's just arrived from Idaho to California, where he and three other rambunctious missionaries move into a small, sunny bungalow. The house is perfectly positioned across the way from Christian's so that when Aaron can't sleep at night, he can peek through the blinds and see that his sexed-up new neighbor is not exactly sleeping either.
At work, when Christian informs his co-workers of who's moved in, one of them interrupts him with a choice barb: "Please, not another episode of `Christian Hooks Up."' Soon, there's a bet going over whether Christian can bag himself a Mormon. But a quick consultation with my Magic Eight Ball says not to worry. "Signs point to yes."
Intelligence is not required to know where this going, just the knowledge that Aaron and Christian share laundry facilities. But so that no one thinks love comes nicely and easily, Cox tries to press some wrinkles into this relationship. When Aaron yields to temptation, he rebuffs Christian for saying that what they're about to do is just harmless fun. A gay Mormon is a Mormon still: Chastity remains a virtue. And to Aaron's initial credit, he calls Christian superficial and walks out.
Upon being rejected, Christian runs out and starts delivering meals to men with AIDS, then tells Aaron about his good deed. Rebuffed again. But when Christian finds Aaron after a bike wreck, they make up -- and out -- in the middle of Aaron's living room. It's one of those long, passionate-seeming exchanges that sends the camera operator circling around the lovers and allows for Aaron's fellow Elders, including a bratty Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to bust them. From here, we get depression, excommunication, attempted suicide, and some extended downtime for the disgraced Aaron, back in Idaho with the estimable Mary Kay Place, who plays his chagrined mother.
Christian has changed enough to miss Aaron like crazy. Going to discos, dancing up a storm, then going home with a stranger just isn't the same. "Latter Days" piles on the only lesson available to movies about gay men: Sex makes you cheap, love makes you holy.
"Latter Days" is such a well-meaning but unambitious work that it's tempting to take it seriously even as you dismiss it. Clearly, Cox intends for it to be about something profound. And whenever Sandvoss is around, the movie is. He gives the fluff a center of gravity, listening to all the actors and apparently feeling every stock emotion. He's very good.
The rest of the cast plays ornamental devices. Jacqueline Bisset is the owner of the restaurant where Christian works, and in a gratuitous side development, his co-worker and housemate Julie (singer Rebekah Jordan) achieves pop stardom so she can crank out the movie's weepy tolerance/love anthem. Regardless, you might have a tough time being convinced that Christian and Aaron belong together. But if the movie wants us to think that the secret to happy gay life is to live it like a runny radio ballad, mission accomplished.
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.