On Valentine’s Day 2015, as Fifty Shades of Grey was raking in bushels of cash at theaters around the country, a quiet revolution was brewing at a couple hundred theaters, mostly in the Midwest. A gentle little film–which, coincidentally, also featured a hero with a penchant for control in his romantic life–began to catch the attention of faith-based audiences and others who didn’t feel that watching Jamie Dornan whack a college student with a riding crop would be their precise cup of tea. The movie was called Old Fashioned, and it broke the record for ticket sales for a film opening at under 300 theaters and has continued to pick up steam now that it’s available on DVD. In fact, at one point the movie, which was filmed on a shoestring budget featuring a cast of largely unknown actors, occupied the #1 spot on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases: Romance” list–above, it’s worth noting, Fifty Shades. So what’s the deal with this odd little phenomenon?
The debut feature film of writer/director/leading man Rik Swartzwelder, Old Fashioned is earnest, charming, and occasionally deeply insightful. Swartzwelder plays Clay, a furniture restorer/antique dealer who underwent a religious conversion as a young man and has spent the subsequent decade atoning for his debauched youth, including production of a series of cheap DVDs in the “Girls Gone Wild” vein. He's basically an honorable guy, but his faith is an airless, joyless thing, mostly concerned with rules and list-making. He won’t even go to church, being disgusted with what he sees as the “hypocrisy” among the churchgoers.