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17 April 2008 @ 06:00 pm
Movies 'R Us  
A couple of movie rambles today, one I watched yesterday and one from a few weeks ago…

First, yesterday's 'boy-kissing' movie, Latter Days.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. There are lots of individual parts that are good, but for me the sum is weaker than its parts.

The story involves a young Mormon missionary who meets and becomes attracted to a gay L.A. party-boy, and as a result struggles with how to deal with his own suppressed homosexuality.

The part of the missionary (Aaron Davis) is played with heartbreaking sweetness and honesty by Steve Sandvoss. His character is wonderful—his faith is genuine and his kindness true. One of the things I liked most about this movie is that his faith is not denigrated or downplayed. The LDS Church's stand on homosexuality obviously is one which the movie cannot agree with or support, but Aaron and his fellow missionaries are not depicted as buffoons (one of the other younger elders is an ass, but he's balanced out by the two other older, calmer elders). The movie shows the emotional challenge of being a missionary—lots of slammed doors and hardly anyone ever happy to see you. I don't recall missionaries being kept out of contact with their families as shown here, though. I used to correspond with a friend who was on a mission in Finland, and I remember well a high-school friend whose family ran up the bills talking to their missionary son long-distance. I don't know where that idea comes from, unless something's changed in the last 25 years.

Throughout the movie, Aaron's faith is never in question—it's strong, it's real, and it's bigger than which church he happened to be raised in. It's an intrinsic part of who he is. Though the movie attempts to show how hard his situation is— what he'd actually be giving up to be true to himself— I don't think it makes the point quite clearly enough. Aaron's choice is between a life which holds the eventual possibility of romantic love and passion on the one hand, and his family, his church, his community and his past on the other. There is no path of compromise.

Now, part of where this movie succeeds less for me is in the character of the party-boy, Christian (Wes Ramsey). Chris is a stereotype in so many ways—he's pretty, shallow, and promiscuous, and he's got that nasal slightly-lispy 'flamer' edge (looks like a boy but acts like a girl). And prettiness aside, I'd think his obvious gayness in behavior would be UNappealing to someone who's having enough trouble with his own feelings and comes from small-town Idaho. Although Aaron inspires Chris to become less self-centered and shallow, Chris' transformation wasn't enough for me. Given what Aaron stands to lose, it's hard to believe that this is the guy he'd consider it for. Oh, Aaron—you could do so much better.

If you're mostly interested in the prettiness, the movie has that. Both guys are very attractive, and even moreso together. Wonderful kissing, etc., no complaints there.

But I wish the story had taken the time to more clearly show what Aaron was facing. It's an even more difficult situation than the average viewer will realize, especially in this day and age when much of American society has modernized its thinking on this topic. Aaron's society has not changed.

*

The second movie is No Reservations (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart).

This was okay, though I see why its reviews were lukewarm. For me, part of that was that I was expecting a romantic comedy (to judge from the trailers and advertising), and it really wasn't a romantic comedy. In fact, there's some pretty heavy tragedy in the beginning.

The main character, Kate (played by Zeta-Jones) is wound too tightly and not terribly likeable. Unfortunately, she doesn't unbend far enough (or maybe not quickly enough within the story arc) to change that impression much. Kate has lots of control issues, and these are challenged by the presence of her niece (the wonderful Abigail Breslin, in the standout performance of the movie) and a new chef on her turf (the woefully miscast Aaron Eckhart as Nick).

Here, Eckhart looks more like he belongs at a NASCAR event than as a chef in a fine-dining establishment, and though that anachronism is meant to be part of his character it's carried too far. He seemed out-of-place throughout this movie, and both the character and actor are continually trying too hard. It becomes annoying after awhile!

Eckhart has more chemistry with Breslin than with Zeta-Jones, but even so it's not enough to sell this story. The movie was okay, but it was more "meh" than anything.

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sassy, classy, and a bit smart-assy: Mikecutebadboy_fangirl on April 18th, 2008 04:28 am (UTC)
Missionaries aren't supposed to call home except 2x a year (Christmas and Mother's Day), and that's the way it's been for a long time. I myself served a mission 10 years ago and it was a well established rule then. However, lots of people disregard the rules, I'm sure.

I appreciate your thoughtful assessment that the movie failed to totally weigh the seriousness of the choice there. I've heard of that movie, but have not seen it. But I've certainly seen plenty of movies whose message is that romantic love is all you need to make you happy, and never a less true message has been perpetuated through our society.

And it's NASCAR, not NASCAAR. Hee.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 18th, 2008 05:27 am (UTC)
Missionaries aren't supposed to call home except 2x a year (Christmas and Mother's Day), and that's the way it's been for a long time.
The movie implied that the mission was a two-year stint in which the person was not supposed to have contact with their families, which implies no writing and no phone calls-- but didn't actually say that explicitly. If you can write to friends while serving a mission, I'd think you'd be able to write to family. And restrictions on whether YOU can call home may not limit how often you can be yourself called up by other people (also unclear). The isolation is intended, I'm sure, to help the person focus on the religious purpose of the two-year separation and on the religious aspects of themselves. It will make or (rarely) break a person, because one might consider that an enforced "growing up" is also a likely side-effect. That is not necessarily a bad thing-- that's what college used to do when it was too expensive to travel home or to phone.

But I've certainly seen plenty of movies whose message is that romantic love is all you need to make you happy, and never a less true message has been perpetuated through our society.
That's sort of the stuff of movies in general, really. ;) But in the case of this character, it isn't really the issue of a single romantic love so much as whether he will live a life where that deeper love is possible, or a life of shallow affections and pretention in order to keep all of those other aspects of his family and community. I would not wish such a thing on anyone, having to divide their life in half and keep only one part of it. :(

And it's NASCAR, not NASCAAR. Hee.
*rushes to edit* That typo likely shows a certain *koff* lack of respect for the world of auto-racing (and monster trucks and bunches of other forms of *koff-WWF* entertainment).
sassy, classy, and a bit smart-assy: Sawyersmilebadboy_fangirl on April 18th, 2008 05:36 am (UTC)
Watch it. I'm happy to agree to disagree about religious issues, but I will throw down on you over NASCAR. It's nothing like WWF! That's so offensive, don't even think that! Erase that idea from your brain. Driving a car at 180 mph may not be great for the environment, but it certainly requires a great deal of skill!

Edited at 2008-04-18 05:37 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: heh-hehhalfshellvenus on April 18th, 2008 07:59 am (UTC)
but I will throw down on you over NASCAR. It's nothing like WWF! That's so offensive, don't even think that!
Well, there's the racing-- which has thrilling aspects, I'm sure. But I was thinking more of the whole NASCAR lifestyle. It scares me a little-- the way square-dancing and cowboy hats scare me.

Although skill? Definitely yes. And it's a markedly different kind of skill from the "I will rip your head off--rawr!!-- and throw you down! *wimpy shimmy* *boot-twist-threat*" skill.

;)
vastian_steelvastian_steel on April 18th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
Have you read the book for Latter Days? I hadn't realized that they actually made a movie on it. I'm rather curious to see how close is the movie version to the book.

No Reservations for me was a slight disappointment though, like you mentioned it was more of a "meh", or in my case, an "Ooohhh. Right." then a "wahahahah, that's classic." kind of a thing for me.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 18th, 2008 05:17 am (UTC)
Have you read the book for Latter Days? I hadn't realized that they actually made a movie on it. I'm rather curious to see how close is the movie version to the book.
I hadn't realized that there was a book first, so no-- haven't read it. I would hope it would go more in depth about the issues of how anguishing a decision that is for Aaron-- and why the situation is impossibly hard for both him AND his family.

then a "wahahahah, that's classic." kind of a thing for me.
Which I so much prefer. :D It's hard to say what kind of movie it actually was-- a drama perhaps? That was too lightweight at times? Or a poorly-executed romantic comedy that was too heavy?

I've enjoyed "dramadies" in the past, but... it wasn't one of those either. ;)
she said mysteriously: DUDE.SERIOUSLY.resounding_echo on April 18th, 2008 05:51 am (UTC)
I severely disliked every aspect of Latter Days.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 18th, 2008 08:02 am (UTC)
The book (because apparently there is one) or the movie?

I didn't much care for Chris' friends, except I like the one guy's volunteer project. I felt for the restaurant owner.

But one of the things I liked about the movie (and remember, this is an agnostic talking) was that it didn't take other people's faith lightly, and also the twists in some of the discussions between the two main characters where one is remembering something as "Of course that was coincidence" and the other is seeing exactly the opposite. The story wants you to see it all as a divine and unknowable plan, but I can live with that.

Christian mostly irked me, though.

Rant to me, baby!
B: Funny - Dukes of Hazardstrifechaos on April 18th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
I haven't had the chance to see Latter Days, but being LDS, I know that the missionaries are only supposed to call home on Christmas and Mother's Day. Uh, you can write letters as much as you want though. I'm not sure about email, I'd have to ask the missionaries at my ward, but I do know that you can write as many letters as you want. My Young Women's group actually had several activities where the main focus was writing to missionaries that were on missions from our ward, so I know that you aren't completely cut off from your family. Plus you can send packages.

We actually delivered a package to a missionary that was serving in my home ward, which we picked up from his family because we were dropping my sister off at college since they lived nearby.

From how you describe the movie, I like that it gives a deeper perspective into his issue, and will have to see if I can't find a copy of it somewhere.

No Reservations was disappointing, I was hoping that the movie would come together better but it just didn't. The little girl was a cutie, but all and all the characters just didn't click. Eckhart seemed too be trying to hard and Zeta-Jones’ didn’t address her issues very well at all within the confines of the movie.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 18th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
I did not know that you were also LDS (especially given certain... more expansive appreciations, let us say). Though the church you are raised in and how you apply those beliefs yourself DOES vary from person-to-person. My father was raised LDS, but knew he was agnostic from about age 6, so there IS no balancing of beliefs there. But then there's my sister, a converted Catholic at one time, who railed against people who didn't use birth control-- and I reminded her that her church does not support any form of real birth control, in spite of the fact that most American Catholics deviate on this issue. But that does not alter the Church's actual position on it, nor how Catholics in a more traditional setting (say, Ireland), choose to deal with that issue.

My Young Women's group actually had several activities where the main focus was writing to missionaries that were on missions from our ward, so I know that you aren't completely cut off from your family. Plus you can send packages.
I do have the feeling that the movie (don't know about the book) wanted to increase the sense of isolation that character experiences for dramatic purposes. But it honestly would not have mattered-- he CANNOT resolve this issue with his family OR his church, regardless of how much contact he might have with them. It is an either/or.

I like that it gives a deeper perspective into his issue, and will have to see if I can't find a copy of it somewhere.
It's probably ironic, given that I'm an agnostic myself, but I like that the character's faith in God is real and unwavering, and that it's shown as being a separate thing from dogma/principles/upbringing. You'd likely interpret Aaron's situation much the same as I do, but I'm not sure that the average viewer would understand that a stake president's son being known to the community as gay is roughly the equivalent of having a bishop's child (if such a thing were permitted!) be gay. There's the conflict with the Church's position, the embarassment to the person who leads a large group of Church members, increased visibility because of same, and an utter irreconcilability with the Church's position (and long-held personal beliefs). Aaron's family cannot act differently than they do in this story. That makes the situation impossible, really.

As for "No Reservations," I see your reaction to that was exactly the same as mine. It was just "off" all the way through, and the male lead wasn't persuasive and the female lead didn't ever really seem to get that she had FREAKIN' ISSUES that honestly did need addressing and resolving. :0
B: Cozystrifechaos on April 18th, 2008 09:04 pm (UTC)
especially given certain... more expansive appreciations, let us say
*laughs* Yeah, I have to admit that I figure you love who you love, and being a guy/gal doesn't mean you're automatically going to love/be attracted to someone dependent on whether they have lady or guy bits. So my position on the issue is different than the position the Church.

I could see them overdramatizing how isolated the main character would be from his family, given how much the family is valued within the church; especially if he was the son of a Stake President.