Delivering Oneself to Temptation

This story of boy-meets-boy is compelling, until the plot intervenes

A hit on the gay film festival circuit last year, “Latter Days” portrays the relationship between a straight-arrow Mormon missionary named Elder Davis (Steve Sandvoss) and promiscuous L.A. party boy Christian (Wes Ramsey). Written and directed by C. Jay Cox (“Sweet Home Alabama”), this sexy romance benefits from the charm of its two attractive screen newcomers.

When Elder Davis moves into the same apartment complex where Christian shares a place with co-worker Julie (Rebekah Johnson), an aspiring singer, the two young men meet. At the restaurant where he waits tables, Christian accepts a bet that he can sleep with the hunky Elder Davis. Given the latent sexual sparks between the two good-looking young men, this should not be too much of a challenge for Christian, someone who keeps a palm pilot journal of his sexual escapades.

The two guys bond over laundry while trading movie quotes and some real chemistry develops, but Elder Davis struggles to resist temptation. When Christian scrapes his side and lies bare-assed as his potential new boyfriend tends to the wound, the sexual tension increases, and adds to the enjoyment of the film.

“Latter Days” could have simply chronicled Christian’s seduction of Elder Davis, but Cox introduces a spiritual component that has Christian questioning his shallowness. When he realizes that caring about people is more important than just fucking them, he makes an effort to be a better person and delivers food to an AIDS patient. The theme of being selfless and “not equating sex with a handshake” is driven home when Christian, naked and bent over, stops a very intimate encounter with a stranger to talk. Audiences may gag at the simplicity of the message, but the sight of one gorgeous naked man going down on another makes it… well… go down easy.

It will come as no surprise that Christian manages to “convert” Elder Davis, and their erotic encounter will probably generate the film’s most enthusiastic response. The leads both look good in bed together sans clothes. However, as fate would have it, the lovers are torn apart.

That said, Cox is perhaps too ambitious in his plotting from the film’s midpoint on, and the coincidences begin to pile up like cars in a bad traffic accident. “Latter Days” which opens with witty lines about sex, careers, and failed relationships soon becomes incredibly heavy handed. From the religious imagery—scenes of Christian, shirtless and with his arms outstretched on the dance floor looking Christ-like and a shot of a woman wearing angel’s wings and smoking––to all the Mormon shame, becomes a bit too much.

The film also introduces a subplot about Julie’s recording career that ties the many loose plot strands together. Unfortunately, it is way too contrived to be convincing.

Nevertheless, both Sandvoss and Ramsey have an engaging screen presence and they fit comfortably in their roles. Likewise, Johnson, who does her own singing as Julie, is impressive.

In support, the excellent (and reliable) character actress Mary Kay Place plays Elder Davis’ mother while Jacqueline Bisset lends her magnificent talent as Lila, the owner of the restaurant where Christian and Julie work. Despite having awful crying scenes, Place and Bisset lend the film some class.

Cox bites off more than he can chew, but “Latter Days” remains appealing. The film is a sermon, served up with a side dish of sex.

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