Comedy (and Romantic Comedy) Theory:
Comedies, on a very generic level, tend to contain two main elements: an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation, or an extraordinary person in an ordinary situation; each allows hilarity to (hopefully) ensue. From this general platform comes subgenres of comedies, each taking their own various spin upon the comedic formula. In the case of a romantic comedy, a film tends to have an ordinary person in either an ordinary or extraordinary situation, and they find someone who is extraordinary (different). What tends to follow is a story of love being discovered, love lost, and love regained – either by forgiving, finding love with a secondary character, or changing to be better dating/marriage material (or any combination of the above).
When talking with people who complain about romantic comedies, they tend to say things like, “the movie was so predictable, I knew how it was going to ultimately end.” Sadly, a statement like this means someone has missed the point of the genre. To be upset about knowing the love-lost-found storyline in a romantic comedy is like being upset there are cowboy hats and horses in a western; it is what helps make the genre what it is. Yes, one can simply dislike the genre, just as some absolutely dislike sci-fi, but hopefully now you will be able to like (or dislike) the genre for more educated reasons.
Old Fashioned is a romantic comedy, and is released as counter-programming to the film 50 Shades of Grey. In Old Fashioned, Rik Swartzwelder plays Clay, a Christian man with an ugly past, who has placed countless rules around him and upon others. His rules are made out of fear, and his hope is to prevent himself from returning to his tasteless life of old. One day, Amber (played by Elizabeth Roberts, who was in multiple episodes of Days of Our Lives and White Men Can’t Dance) comes into Clay’s town to set up home. Running away from another disappointing lifestyle and abusive relationship, Amber’s goal is to drive until she runs out of gas, find a temporary home, save up money for a lot more gas, and then when things go awry drive until she runs out of gas again and restart the process. The two meet, and the romantic comedy storyline takes off in proper form as the two begin to fall in love.
In all honesty, many Christian-made movies are usually sub-par in quality at best. Lately, there has been some real exceptions (God’s Not Dead being one of the more popular well-directed and acted Christian-based films). Old Fashioned, while has a rare moment or three of acting struggles, is a very solid production. The lighting and cinematography is spot on, the writing is well done and genre appropriate, humor is definitely present, and the last 10 minutes of the film is one of the most romantic, intimate, heartfelt, and tender scenes I have seen on screen since the haircut scene in Phenomenon in 1996. Phenomenon’s PG haricut scene was called by Gene Siskel as more romantic and steamy in 5 minutes than then NC-17 Showgirls ever hoped to be in its 2 hours. I believe the same can be said for Old Fashioned vs 50 Shades of Grey. Old Fashioned is truly a film that can help set a relationship free rather than tie it down.
The only negative I have about Old Fashioned is a real nitpick, but I do feel should be mentioned, given the nature of the movie. Being a Christian film, there were two potential inconsistencies that bothered me.
First, Clay is a man who wants to find a truly Godly girl to marry, and he has set up a ton of his own rules to protect himself from lust and adultery. However, Amber is not a Christian girl, and finds a life committed to Jesus as silly; yet the two begin to fall in love. Given that the Bible very clearly teaches for Christians and non-Christians to not marry (1 Cor. 6:14), it was troubling for me that Clay would ever be interested in Amber. Granted, he starts by saying she was not his type, and the love creeps in over time, but he does intentionally make the choice to pursue her.
Secondly, and lastly, the film tries to avoid being preachy about Jesus (which I can appreciate, as many movies go way over the top and are more filmed sermon than a movie with a story). However, in trying to avoid being salvation preachy, it leaves it ambiguous to know if Amber accepts Jesus as Savior (becoming a Christian) or not. She reads one verse and cries. However, it was during the loss of love, and the verse she read is the first verse he quotes to her, and she could be experiencing an emotional catharsis during her grief and regret. Her attitude and perspective does change afterward: is it Jesus impacting her everyday life, or merely a new optimism and hope for a new ethic and thus a new life? While I believe the film leans towards Amber’s salvation, the lack of information can lead to multiple perspectives. This is where perhaps being a little, for lack of better terms, preachy, may have been beneficial. While the director of the film (also Rik Swartzwelder) was at the advanced screening I attended, I was unable to talk to him to clarify these issues.
Old Fashioned was a good movie, and definitely better than the average romantic comedy. It’s worth the money for the theater, and has one of the most romantic moments/scenes I have ever seen in a movie. I give the film 3 out of 4 stars.