Love is patient, love is kind, but film criticism is none of these things.
CGB follower “G.S.” asked me to review this movie when it came out in February, so now I am following through on that request.
Old Fashioned, which came out on the same day as Fifty Shades of Grey (remember this detail; it will be important later), tells the story of a rigid, introverted man named Clay who owns his aunt’s antique shop. When an innocent, free-spirited woman named Amber becomes a tenant above the antique shop, the two develop an odd friendship that slowly but surely works its way into a chaste courtship in contemporary America.
Clay is a guy who gets in his own way with his strict theories on love and romance…and so does this movie.
There are some gems to be found in this film. For one, the color palate is something to be admired. Because Old Fashioned embraces the simplisticity of its premise, the backgrounds are colored with earth tones with the lighting scheme of a late-afternoon sunset. This color palate gives the film a cozy, little-town feel that I greatly appreciated. In fact, one shot of a sun rising was so gorgeous that I actually took a picture of it on my phone. I will post the picture on the Catholic Girl Bloggin’ Facebook page.
The two leads, Clay and Amber, have genuine chemistry. Their interactions are believeable and their archs are well-defined. Amber is just a delight. She’s written less as a shallow modernist and more as a go-with-the-flow optimistic nomad who chases happiness and adventure. She’s like Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat Pray Love; seeking new life after a doomed relationship.
Something else I really liked is that this Christian film attempts to show the two extremes of faith. A loose faith leads to inconsistency and aimlessness. A rigid faith leads to stagnation and resentment. This is a rare and noble message that needs to be showcased more in Christian films.
The story itself is unique on paper; an age-old courtship in modern society can make for a great story when done right. But when executed poorly…(sighs) well, here are my points of frustration with this film.
Some of the editing choices are just off-putting. This movie likes to have Clay and Amber talking, and then show a separate scene with Clay running on a track field because–potatoes!–or have Amber walk across a bridge because–banana!–and these odd transitions are going on WHILE Clay and Amber are in the middle of a conversation in the present day. That kind of editing is great for the trailer, but it gets so distracting in the final product.
Speaking of Clay….oh, boy. I’m sure the actor playing Clay is giving it his all, but his line delivery is so stilted. It seriously felt like he was just reading off cue cards. Where Amber feels like a fleshed-out character who could exist in real life, Clay has the vibe of a character who was created to promote an agenda. The rigid, introverted traditionalist arch can work, but because his dialogue consists of pro-courtship slogans and the delivery of those lines is borderline robotic, I could not for the life of me connect with Clay’s character.
Why did I bring up that this movie came out on the exact same day as that cinematic cancer we humans call “Fifty Shades of Grey?” Because it’s quite obvious that this movie exists as a counter to Fifty Shades. I recently wrote an op-ed titled “Putting a Hashtag on Human Life,” in which I talked about the animosity between the #BlackLivesMatter camp and the #AllLivesMatter camp. One of the things I said was, “#AllLivesMatter is tainted by its own inception: It was created for the sole purpose of opposing #BlackLivesMatter and had no further vision.” Old Fashioned has this exact same problem. This movie exists because Fifty Shades exists. As a result, it feels as though the ideas are trying to be the story, not the story trying to have ideas.
Overall Old Fashioned is a well-intentioned, even innovative film that falls short because of its inception. Despite its shortcomings, it is a good start to the depiction of courtship in cinema.