With the sex-themed film adaptation of "Fifty Shades of Grey" set to hit the big screen next year, there's another movie releasing at the same time that is set to present a radically different message about life, love and relationships.
Writer and director Rik Swartzwelder told TheBlaze in an email interview this week that audiences can find something a bit more wholesome in "Old Fashioned," which releases on Valentine's Day weekend next year.
[sharequote align="center"]"I reject the idea that hookups are exclusively physical. They are spiritual. Emotional."[/sharequote]
"'Old Fashioned' is an atypical story about relationship realities like forgiveness, isolation and community, getting beyond the past, healing — even about law and grace," he said. "At its core it’s about respect, honor, and virtue — outdated ideals, maybe — applied to romance in a modern world, which, of course, is hardly 'normal' by today’s dating standards."
Swartzwelder, who patently reject's today's hookup culture as a negative phenomenon, cited Clay, one of the main characters in "Old Fashioned," who proclaims, "We don’t have to go around using each other, hurting each other. It doesn’t have to be that way."
The director added that contemporary hookup culture that seeks mere pleasure rather than lasting connection has a profoundly negative impact on the human soul.
"Just ask the countless people wounded by it — myself included — spiritually, emotionally, physically. Still, we’re all free to make choices, learn lessons, pursue experiences," he said. "I categorically reject the idea that hookups are exclusively physical. They are spiritual. Emotional. And what 'happens in Vegas' almost never stays in Vegas. It follows us."
But Swartzwelder said that "Old Fashioned" isn't about judgement or control, rather it's about being cautious and seeking answers to hard and daunting questions about love.
[sharequote align="center"]"What 'happens in Vegas' almost never stays in Vegas. It follows us."[/sharequote]
The movie is a romantic drama that focuses on a former frat boy (Clay, who is played by Swartzwelder) who abandons his meandering ways to run a small antique shop — and who meets a woman who challenges him to step out of his comfort zone. In its totality, it's a story of traditional courtship.
Swartzwelder, who also stars in the film, said that he was motivated to make "Old Fashioned" by his desire to present a real-life story focusing on the struggles that single people face as they search for love, while simultaneously trying to honor God.
Watch an exclusive trailer for "Old Fashioned" below:
"Unless it’s set in the 1800s or an Amish county, you don’t see that brand of honesty in a contemporary love story," Swartzwelder said, noting that he's hoping the story will spark important conversations about the current state of romance in America.
While he was hesitant to judge "Fifty Shades of Grey" before seeing the final version of the film, based on the books, Swartzwelder said that he was heartbroken to consider that the plot line, which focuses on graphic sexual scenes, might be an "early introduction to intimacy" for young men and women.
"While I don’t wish to be prudish or to play bedroom police, I do marvel that the media can give the dom/sub/control stuff a wink and a nod. Compared to what any kid with a computer can access online today, 'Fifty Shades' should be tame in comparison," he said. "Still, the runaway cultural embrace of 'Fifty Shades' and films like it stand to affect young men and women as they begin to sort out love, sex and what life can be. That’s where we run into genuine negative ramifications."
[sharequote align="center"]"Runaway cultural embrace of 'Fifty Shades' and films like it stand to affect young men and women."[/sharequote]
Swartzwelder said that main characters in both "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Old Fashioned" are deeply damaged by their pasts and — based on his reading of the "Fifty Shades" books — they take two divergent paths toward addressing this pain.
"In Old Fashioned, Clay Walsh pursues virtue, to a fault, constructing a life he hopes will keep him from hurting anyone," he said. "In 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' Christian Grey pursues pleasure to a fault, constructing a life with different goals, to put it mildly."
He added, "Both men are isolated, lonely, and struggling to know and feel deserving of love — like a lot of people in the theater seats."
Find out more about "Old Fashioned" here.