In Culture-Making, Andy Crouch wrote that Christians should go beyond critiquing and copying culture and start creating some. Last night I viewed an excellent example of what he meant. Christians (and non-Christians too) should speak out against the violence against women in Fifty Shades of Gray, but wouldn’t it be great if we had an alternative to recommend instead? Now we do.
Our church rented a theater to watch Old Fashioned, a fine movie about love, sex, and dating. It’s the story of Clay and Amber, a guy and a girl who cope with their sexual history in different ways. Amber flees as far as a tank of gas will take her, then rents an apartment and makes a start with her cat in her new home. Clay becomes a Christian and chooses to live a semi-monastic existence, refusing even to be alone in the same room with a woman. She takes the apartment above his antique store and promptly begins pursuing him. She’s a free spirit—likeable from beginning to end. He’s too legalistic and judgmental for anyone’s tastes, but for some reason she really likes him. Think Elaine Benes chasing Ned Flanders. There are going to be some bumps.
Clay’s character seems a little far-fetched—would someone really go all the way from making “Girls Gone Wild” videos in college to fear of cooties—but the actor who wrote the movie and played the role of Clay spoke briefly before the movie. Rik Swartzwelder said he made the movie because none of the romantic movies told his story. So apparently the pendulum does swing that far.
Rik said he wrote the movie before he had heard of Fifty Shades of Gray, but when he heard that Fifty Shades was opening on Valentine’s Day, it seemed like the logical time to give moviegoers another option. I hope that everyone who is rightly disgusted with Fifty Shades goes to see Old-Fashioned instead. It is the perfect vehicle for a protest movie—it struggles with issues of sex, guilt, grace, and forgiveness. Unlike Fifty Shades, it’s actually about love. This movie opens in 200 theaters this weekend. Don’t waste time boycotting Fifty Shades, let Hollywood hear you by supporting wholesome alternatives like this one. Looking for dinner and a movie for Valentine’s Day? You won’t do better than Chick-Fil-A and Old-Fashioned. They make protest fun.
The movie is high quality, rich in symbolism, and deeply satisfying. I would put the production values of this movie with any others I’ve seen. This is a movie to be proud of.
There was one gaping plot hole that every Christian should notice. It was strange that Clay, a self-proclaimed Christian who knew his Bible and followed it beyond the letter, somehow missed the verse about Christians being unequally yoked with non-Christians. He asked Amber a lot of personal questions to see if they were compatible: “How many children do you want? How do you handle money? How many sexual partners?” Yet he never mentioned the fact that she wasn’t a Christian? This is sort of explained by the fact that Clay doesn’t go to church (which raises a whole new set of issues) and it seems that Amber is at least warming up to Christianity by the end (she is seen reading a Bible). The movie does a good job of showing, not telling, but this might be one case where it was a bit too subtle.
The movie had one other positive message that will be missed by most. Amber’s one companion is her cat, and Clay is allergic to them. It’s worth watching the movie just for this—if they do eventually get together, the cat has to go. So there’s a little something for everyone.