Want an alluring love story for your Valentine’s Day movie date? US filmgoers have distinct options this season.
Much-discussed Fifty Shades of Grey is based on the erotic novel that’s drawn countless bookclubbers into lip-biting, toe-curling ecstasy. Trailers promise mystery, pleasure, bondage, and pain.
Old Fashioned takes, shall we say, a somewhat different approach. Boy meets girl. Attraction is mutual, but they focus on romance with respect, even chivalry. Both have painful pasts that influence their feelings and decisions. Each struggles to know the other and to discover whether they should forge a future together.
“Girls Gone Wild”
In Old Fashioned, writer/director Rik Swartzwelder plays Clay, a former party animal who produced “Girls Gone Wild”-style videos, but eventually wearied of empty and broken relationships. He’s determined to treat women with respect and honor, patiently wait, focus on head and heart before body. A nice guy who occasionally hides behind sometimes quirky relationship rules to protect himself from vulnerability and pain.
Enter Amber (Elizabeth Ann Roberts), a free spirit who rents the apartment above Clay’s antique shop, then creates repair needs as excuses to spend time with her cute landlord/handyman. Surprised and puzzled by his platonic convictions, she longs to explore his mind and heart, but meets resistance. Her persistence plus a friend’s intervention start them courting.
Navigating relationship complexities
The film traces two wounded souls navigating relationship complexities. Turns out Clay’s profligate-to-platonic transformation involved a Bible, a gift from a former love interest. Amber asks about his favorite parts of the book. Clay refers to an assertion about life change: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
“Don’t…tell me you found Jesus?” asks a skeptical Amber on another occasion. “More like he found me,” explains Clay.
Sex, of course, is a powerful drive, as Fifty Shades’ popularity attests. But so is love. Who doesn’t want to be accepted, understood, cherished, affirmed? Old Fashioned touches these deep human desires and presents realistic portrayals of people with whom you might identify, seeking – and finding – genuine fulfillment. And its precepts offer sound counsel.
“When did treating women with respect become the joke?” asks Clay in the film. He values building his own character over happy hunting.
I’ll second that. Certainly evaluating prospective mates is important. But often people focus more on finding the right person than on becoming the right person. A good question for singles seeking a meaningful relationship: “How can I become the kind of person that the kind of person I want to marry…would want to marry?”
In the run-up to both films’ Valentine’s weekend openings, Old Fashioned promoters played off the contrast with Fifty Shades. The latter received an “R” rating for several elements including “some unusual behavior.” A clever OF trailer invites moviegoers to “leave the door open as two souls take the time to discover…[not]manipulation [but]healing” in “a love story that most only dream of.”
“The wheels of Old Fashioned were in motion long before the Fifty Shades book got to Hollywood,” Swartzwelder explains. “We didn’t create our film in response to any other specific book or film, at all … but the decision to hold-off on our release so it could open alongside Fifty Shades? Yes, that was indeed deliberate.” He sees his film as remedy: “Think of a young woman you care about … which love story would you wish for her?”
As the OF tagline reads, “Love is…patient, love is…kind, love is…old fashioned.” Yes. And very, very nice.
Rated PG-13 (USA) “for some thematic material.”