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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.

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.