President’s Day Weekend witnessed a prime example of Hollywood injustice. “50 Shades of Grey,” the big screen adaptation of the notorious best-seller by E.L. James, broke numerous box office records. With a dedicated fan base and two exceptionally good-looking people playing the leads, it could do no less than make movie history.
Yet, in terms of true love and romance, “50 Shades” scores a big fat zero. Christian Grey, the hot young entrepreneur, takes a liking to an extremely cute but inexperienced college student named Anastasia Steele. Ana, as her friends call her, wants romance, something that Christian is not capable or even willing to give her.
What the business magnate can give, however, is discipline and pain. In the BDSM world, Grey is a former submissive turned dominant and a control freak to boot. To have a relationship with Ana, he gives her a legal contract outlining their extracurricular activities. As Ana, Dakota Johnson has a brilliant boardroom scene with Grey discussing the agreement with all the passion of a budget meeting.
In a brilliant bit of counter-programming, “Old Fashioned,” a well-constructed indie film, made it to theaters over the same weekend. I saw both films at the Edwards 21 in Irvine. “50 Shades” got the biggest and best auditoriums while “Old Fashioned” played in the smallest one. Yet, the indie is superior to the blockbuster in more ways than one.
Rik Swartzwelder plays Clay Walsh, a quiet and respectful guy criticized for his seemingly outdated ideas on love and romance. Clay had a wild past, but he now embraces ideals about loving, respecting and cherishing women. After renting an apartment to Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Ann Roberts), he makes her stand outside when he does repairs because it wouldn’t be proper to be alone with her.
On the romance scale, “50 Shades of Grey” and “Old Fashioned” are miles apart. Christian and Ana’s extreme bedroom behavior actually cannot hold a candle to the affections between Clay and Amber. During their courtship, they even make boxes for each other containing things they want to try, such as getting in the car and just driving. And they each take turns pulling a slip from their box.
Getting down to brass tacks, “50 Shades of Grey” is rather tedious. Watching it, I felt like the bored students in “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life” watching a live classroom sex demonstration. By the end of “Old Fashioned,” I started to cry because the relationship between Clay and Amber is one that most of us look for all our lives. If you want to see some serious onscreen smolder, go see “Old Fashioned.”