It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, so it makes sense that the big attraction at the movie theaters is a love story… though not exactly a traditional one. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is slated to rake in the big bucks this weekend, but for anyone familiar with its source material you know this isn’t a typical tale of boy meets girl. “Grey” looks to lure you in with its salacious appeal, but there is another film that seeks to offer wholesome values this weekend, Rik Swartzwelder’s “Old Fashioned.”
“Old Fashioned” wants to be the alternative to “Fifty Shades of Grey” for moviegoers. It is certainly its opposite, but it just hits one major road bump in trying to do so… it’s boring.
The film focuses on a former frat boy and a free-spirited woman who attempt to have an “old fashioned” courtship in modern day America. It actually sounds like a potentially interesting plot. How will it work with modern technology? Or how will his frat boy personality clash with her? Unfortunately, the story subverts any of those potential angles and instead gives us a flat story with even flatter characters.
Swartzwelder wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film as Clay Walsh, the former frat boy. The key word there is former, as he has given up his partying ways and now leads an almost monk like existence. That is until he meets Amber (Elizabeth Roberts), who moves from place to place, settling in wherever she happens to be when she runs out gas. The idea of opposites attracting is the only basis for these two to be together, because the chemistry between Swartzwelder and Roberts certainly doesn’t help.
Swartzwelder is stiff as a board as Clay, which may fit with his holier-than-thou mentality, but it doesn’t exactly make him an interesting character and definitely doesn’t convince us that he and the clichéd bubbly Amber would hit it off, though Roberts does her best to convince us otherwise.
The film tries to add depth to Clay by giving him a mysterious past that set him off on this path to righteousness, but it actually ends up being neither mysterious or that dramatic. Turns out Clay helped produce a series of “Girl Gone Wild” like DVDs when he was in college, something we find out in the first 15 minutes of the film and then is hinted to like a earth shattering revelation for the rest of the run time. Yes, it was a scummy thing to do, but the video and the rest of his past aren’t monumental sins that must be spoken of only in whispers, especially nine years later.
Which brings us to the faith element. “Old Fashioned” is certainly not a film that hides its religious inclinations, but it also doesn’t bash us over the head with them, which is a point for it. Religion is clearly a strong part of Clay’s character and is reference throughout, but the film still tries to be more of a personal journey than a religious experience, so good on it for finding a happy medium.
The only religious element that seems to go to far is the basic premise of Clay’s theory, which is so biblical it is almost impossible to pull off. Other characters that make up the town constantly refer to Clay as old fashioned, so I guess to them old fashioned means ancient. Today, old fashioned in terms of relationships means not meeting someone on OkCupid or Tinder, not, as Clark Gable would put it, erecting the walls of Jerricho to prevent any possibility of awkwardness.
That wall does erode at times in the movie, and those are some actual high spots for the film, unfortunately they are just too few and far between to give it any real momentum.
“Old Fashioned” seems like a Hallmark movie without the crazy twist; what is it that truly makes this something special to watch? At nearly two hours long it’s certainly has enough chances to make an impact, but there’s little to hold on to after you watch it. It’s pure heart isn’t enough.