Wednesday, March 23, 2005

close to home

Watched Latter Days again last night. There are movies that you know are intensely problematic, poorly structured, too on-the-nose in their writing etc... but you respond to them anyway if you know where they're coming from. This movie is like that --plot details are sometimes ludicrous but it's also highly realistic in terms of 'capturing' mormon missionary speak, gay mormon angst, and mormon family interactions with a black sheep in their mix, etc...

Now Tony Kushner also went to this spiritual crisis well famously with Angels in America which is roughly 2.79 trillion times more majestic, beautifully written, important, etc... but he was an outsider looking in and though he wasn't exactly going for naturalistic dialogue, his dialogue also was written clearly from an outsider perspective looking in (Mormons speak in very specific ways and this movie knows how they speak) rather than a former insider looking back (which I assume the writer/director here was -or else how is it this spookily accurate)

Here comes the PSA: If you are a Mormon or former Mormon or wannabe former Mormon and find yourself in this protagonists situation with the churchthis is a great website to visit.

7 comments:

Nick Davis said...

Aesthetically, I had the same reaction you did to Latter Days - I wound up forgiving a lot of flaws because the story and performances hooked me, even without the inner-cultural knowledge about Mormons you were able to bring.

Blogosphere denizens who are interested in gay/Mormon cultural issues might also be interested in David Savran's exquisite essay about Angels in America (including specific historical analysis of the play's approach to Mormon history and beliefs); you can find it in the May '95 issue of Theatre Journal (esp. if you have access to a university library collection) or, more easily, in the anthology Approaching the Millennium: Essays on 'Angels in America'.

On a lighter side, the blog Zionide can also be a hoot sometimes.

adam k. said...

Wait, Nathaniel, you're a former Mormon? I didn't know that.

par3182 said...

How spooky - I watched 'Latter Days' last night too - albeit on the other side of the world and for the first time. Zzzzzz... Ever since I read your brilliant Cinemarati piece on gay cinema I've turned into an even harsher critic than I already was (and, btw, your assessment of Daniel Day Lewis's reading of "it's always worth waiting for Omar" made me watch the film again - still dirty after all these years).

'Latter Days's screenplay with its clunky dialogue and contrived, ridiculous coincidences bored the bejeezus out of me. But I've never been a Mormon, so perhaps that's the difference? Then again, I was never a ballet dancing coal miner's son but I completely identified with the outsider status of 'Billy Elliot'.

I guess as I get older (and grumpier) I'm less eager to forgive a film just because it has a couple of toned boys doing each other.

Nick Davis said...

Beyond the bodies, I actually thought Steve Sandvoss' performance was sweet and kind of deft. (And his storyline wasn't as plagued with faux-coincidences, rascally sidekicks, etc. as the other guy's.) Did any of it work for you, par3182?

Not that this is even my blog, but I'm just curious...

NATHANIEL R said...

Confession #273 (yeesh, I get no privacy having a blog and a website. self inflicted I know...)

Yes, I am a former Mormon.

Joe R. said...

It's funny - I just saw this movie this week as well. And I had a similar reaction to it. I spent a lot of time picking out the flaws in the film (and there are MANY), but there was also something at the heart of it that endeared it to me. It was a sweetness of intent, I think. Which is completely different from being a good movie.

I felt the same when I saw "Camp" - frustratingly bad movie with enough to redeem it that it endeared itself to me - which is odd because I'm neither a Mormon, nor am I a former theatre kid. Yet I still felt a kinship with the characters in these movies.

par3182 said...

I'll have to admit, Nick, Steve Sandross was the only thing I didn't completely dismiss. His performance was sweet but, like the film, it just didn't move me at all. Which us a shame as it was obviously a harrowing journey but it was pushed into second place behind the dull story of the party boy (who was neither pretty or personable enough to be interesting).

(and, btw, I didn't mean to deny you credit for your part in the cinemarati piece. excellent work)