Posted February 26, 2015
By AUDREY WINKELSAS
For the many people not interested in seeing the notoriously naughty “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Old Fashioned” is an alternative romance to see this Valentine’s Day weekend. Skoche Films released this indie film telling the story of an “old-fashioned” courtship in contemporary America.
Unfortunately, “Old Fashioned” is so moral and pure that it is altogether dull, even to myself, a devotee of tradition and integrity.
Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Ann Roberts) is a free-spirited girl who drives her Jeep on empty. She quite literally stalls in rural Ohio, which she decides to call home. She finds a job at a flower shop where she works alongside Carol (Maryann Nagel) and Trish (Lindsay Heath).
Apartment hunting leads her to meet Clay Walsh (Rik Swartzwelder), who has a place to rent out above his antique store called “Old Fashioned.” Clay takes Amber upstairs to see the apartment, but refuses to go inside with her. He tells her it’s because he made a promise to never be alone with a woman who’s not his wife.
As we will soon learn, there is perhaps no better profession for Clay than antique store owner. He has a sketchy past, pieces of which we can glimpse in his misogynistic fraternity brother and long-time friend Brad (Tyler Hollinger). Following some sort of enlightenment, Clay now has obsolete theories concerning dating, although these theories would still have been considered weird in the last century.
Even in the 1800s, a Victorian gentleman would not have made a woman stand outside in the cold so as not to be alone with her while he repaired her kitchen sink. Nonetheless, Amber falls for Clay. She continues to break appliances, each time as an excuse to talk with him.
No doubt the character in the film most loved by audiences is Clay’s witty and feisty Great Aunt Zella (Dorothy Silver). She provides the much-needed comic relief in the story just when a yawn is nearing. It seems like the 115-minute length could have been shortened without much sacrifice to character or plot development. Both seem rather one-dimensional for the first two-thirds of the film.
There is not enough struggle throughout the story. For this reason, it would not be right to comment on the lead actors’ superficial demeanors and the jaunty smiles plastered on their faces, as they did not have much opportunity to act otherwise. As the end nears, Roberts proves herself to be a talented actress when given the chance, even convincingly crying on camera. Swartzwelder’s emotional capacity on screen is still in question.
Swartzwelder is writer, director, and lead actor for this motion picture. That is a huge number of roles for a single person to fill. Though no doubt a talented man, the acting may have been better if left to someone else whom could be coached. Who is going to advise the writer and director when he is not convincingly representing his own character?
For an indie film, overall the production quality was quite good. There was interesting camera work to distinguish when the scene was a flashback. Seeing a low budget film successfully executed makes a viewer wonder why other movies spend so much on production.
Swartzwelder set forth with the intention of offering a more ethical alternative to the modern hook-up culture. He certainly does not present it as an appealing option for the public. A more successful way of encouraging people to have a relationship that respects both women and God would be less extreme. Take a woman out to dinner, hold the door for her, help take her coat off, pull out her chair, say a prayer before digging in, and refrain from sexual innuendos. That is a more realistic model for a man to follow than the one Clay depicts.
The central themes of the film are timeless and deep. In today’s society, it is refreshing to watch a relatively non-violent movie with zero profanity that professes respect for women. Equally dominant is the notion of carpe diem. “This is the day that the Lord has made” is a motif that ultimately convinces Clay to take hold of his life and not let past mistakes oppress him. With a lot less weird, and a little more depth, this movie could have made future dates more romantic for women everywhere.
- “Old Fashioned”
- Limited Release: Feb. 13, 2015.
- Rated: PG-13
- Showing: Sunset Place, South Miami. Show times and prices vary.
- Written and directed by Rik Swartzwelder.
- Produced by Rik Swartzwelder, Nathan Nazario, Dave DeBorde, and Nini Hadjis.
- Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes.
- Actors: Elizabeth Ann Roberts (Amber Hewson), Rik Swartzwelder (Clay Walsh), Dorothy Silver (Aunt Zella), Tyler Hollinger (Brad/Lucky Chucky), LeJon Woods (David), Nini Hadjis (Lisa), Anne Marie Nestor (Kelly), Joseph Bonamico (George), Lindsay Heath (Trish), Maryann Nagel (Carol), Ange’le Perez (Cosie)
- Personal Rating: 2/4 stars