The largest throng of moviegoers over the Valentine’s Day weekend are expected to make “50 Shades of Grey” their first selection. If you prefer less S&M and a sweeter approach to courting, then “Old Fashioned” might make a better date night option.
This low-budget, faith-based film — with a cast of mostly unknowns — is little more than a made-for-cable movie. But it offers an endearing look at what it’s like to fall in love — not lust.
Amber (Elizabeth Roberts) has spent her life running away from failed relationships and bad breakups. Her escape plan is simple: drive until she runs out of gas and make that her new home.
Her latest tank emptying trek brings her to a sleepy little community that looks more like a series of postcards than a real town. She finds a second-floor apartment that’s owned by Clay (Rik Swartzwelder), the local antique dealer and emotional recluse.
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Clay once lived a hard and fast life. A bitter end to a relationship has given him a new perspective on how men and women should act. He will no longer be alone in a room with a woman. Dating is off the table. He would rather restore broken pieces of furniture than find a way to fix his broken heart.
Amber sees Clay’s good heart and tries to bring him out of his dating funk, armed only with a winning smile and a “can do” attitude. It’s the same kind of performance Meg Ryan would bring to love stories with Tom Hanks.
Swartzwelder not only stars in the film, but he also wrote and directed it. He put together a story that’s as sentimental as any Hallmark greeting card and has a beautiful look.
It’s his performance that comes up short. It’s difficult to play someone who is so emotionally scarred that they regress into an emotional cocoon without making him a complete dud. Swartzwelder doesn’t slip to that level, but he could have used a little more energy.
It might just seem a little too laid back because Roberts brings so much life to her performance. She’s as interesting in scenes where she’s breaking things in her apartment just to get Clay to show up to fix them as she is trying to pull some long lost feelings out of the man she obviously loves.
“Old Fashioned” lives up to its name. It approaches the story of a man and a woman falling in love with respect, honesty and a spiritual element that never gets too preachy. The movie is going to get steamrolled by “50 Shades of Grey,” but the audience that does find it will get to see the kind of production that makes couples want to hold hands in the theater.