Movie Review: “Old Fashioned”

oldThe faith-based romance “Old Fashioned” is a slow, preachy romantic comedy opening Valentine’s Day week opposite “Fifty Shades of Grey,” counter-programming “love” that’s kinky with love from Corinthians.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…”
But pride, or pricing is the film’s worst enemy. The writer-director, perhaps for reasons of economy (surely not vanity) cast himself as the romantic lead. And Rik Swartzwelder, competent behind the camera, is an utter stiff on screen.
Elizabeth Roberts is Amber, bubbly and upbeat, even as she and her cat run out of gas in small-town Ohio. Her hand’s in a cast, and she uses her last cash for fuel to get her ancient Jeep Cherokee off the road. There’s an upstairs apartment above Old Fashioned, an antiques store where the meticulous and quiet Clay (Swartwelder) presides.
He’s an odd one. Her heart-melting smile don’t seem to move him. He won’t do a walk-through of the apartment with her. Clay has resolved to “never be alone with any woman who’s not my wife.” While that kept Billy Graham a televangelist beyond reproach, it’s incredibly off-putting for an eligible bachelor. That’s not “Old Fashioned,” that’s…Catholic priest, Islamic fundamentalist, Orthodox Jewish, something beyond “traditional.”
Clay quotes the Bible, starts a lot of sentences about dating, love and romance with “I have a theory” and is a general stick-in-the-mud. Naturally, Amber is intrigued. “Dating,” he lectures, just teaches us how to act “witty, romantic and charming.” He doesn’t believe “dating trains us to be husband and wives.”
Amber bumps into him at the market, wears him down a bit, and then starts breaking stuff in the apartment that he’ll have to come fix.But on that first date, he drags her to his pastor and picks up copies of a Christian relationship workbook. He’s firing off questions from the book that predict compatibility — “Do you believe in the death penalty? How many sexual partners have you had in the past ten years?”
When Amber doesn’t run run run from this self-righteous bore, we cannot help but think “It’s only a movie.”
To his credit, Swartzwelder doesn’t people this world with anyone as one-dimensional as his character. There’s the ex-classmate shock jock (Tyler Hollinger) leaving town for the Big Time. Best friend David (LeJon Woods) and Lisa (Nina Hadjis) are an interracial couple “living in sin,” and have a child. People have wine with meals, and Amber can hit the local bar with her hot hot colleague (Lindsay Heath) from the florist shop where she finds a job, and not be painted as a harlot.This is a faith-based romance set in something like the real world.
Even Clay’s behavior has real world underpinnings. He’s a prime example of the Big Mistake Theory — people who do some great wrong or perceived wrong who suddenly embrace religion, and a little more firmly than the rest of us.
But Swartzwelder’s Clay lacks the charisma, charm or animation that would catch anybody’s eye. And it doesn’t help that the actor dresses and wears the haircut of a 40something charismatic preacher trying too hard to look younger and hipper — mop top combed-forward over his hairline, shirt tails out, relaxed fit jeans that are a little too long.
Roberts, Woods and Heath are good in lighter roles, and Dorothy Silver, playing outspoken Aunt Zella, has the funniest lines. She makes a big production of “Let us give thanks” before a meal. Everybody pauses, holds hands and closes their eyes. “Thanks” is all she says.
A shorter, slightly faster-paced version of this with a better lead might have worked. But that sounds like every maudlin Nicolas Sparks novel ever adapted for the screen. Who’d go to that?

1half-star

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material

Cast: Elizabeth Roberts, Rik Swartzwelder, LeJon Woods , Lindsay Heath, Tyler Hollinger

Credits: Written and directed by Rik Swartzwelder. A Freestyle/Pure Flix release.

Running time: 1:55

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4 Responses to Movie Review: “Old Fashioned”

  1. Sue says:

    You are too hard on Rik, and don’t even know that he tried to get someone else for the lead role, and that didn’t work out due to another commitment conflict. We think he IS an appealing charming lead! You must look beyond the shallow “pazazz” standard that you are used to gauging people by, and look into the soul, the character. It’s much more “real life” than most other movies. It’s no coincidence it opened opposite of the pornographic grey movie. Best of all, it’s production journey has been blessed by God all the way to opening weekend- and beyond!!

  2. susan says:

    yeah…sorry..your review is a typical…negative from the secular world view. If you are not a person who understands the passion and beauty that God created and intended between men and women…your not gonna understand this film…it was PERFECT..EVERY FRAME!!! and no matter how liberated a women claims to be….she longs to be treated like a person and not a piece of meat……This is a blessed and tender film…just BEAUTIFUL…even my husband enjoyed it, and he usually likes to just watch things blow up

    • Sorry, I never try to reason with children, drunks or the religiously zealous. Can’t be done. The movie had possibilities which its story arc and leading man weren’t up to capturing.

  3. Linda rich says:

    Well everyone entitled to there opinion. I respect yours. I have seen this movie multiple times, i love Rik as Clay, i love all the cast, the story and incredible music. Being a religious zealot isnt so bad, if it means i have a zeal and passion for God. By the way, the man that married my sister 30 years ago also waited to kiss her and refrain from anything sexual till wedding day.because in his youth,he had been very promiscuis . When he decided a life change and choose to honor God he made that same vow. Hes been an incredible brother in law and amazing husband for my sister…so to each his own, wishing you the best. Linda

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