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Movie Review: “Old Fashioned” Is a Beautiful Modern Love Story

Old Fashioned tells the story of Clay and Amber, two very flawed people who are trying romance God's way this time.
Old Fashioned tells the story of Clay and Amber, two very flawed people trying to find their beloved God’s way this time.

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend and you’re so excited to see the latest romantic movie! Should you see the much-anticipated porno so graphic the female lead doesn’t want her parents to see it? And whose male lead felt so dirty while researching his part that he had to shower before touching his wife and children?

Or do you see Old Fashioned, a new romantic film you will not only want to share with your spouse, but with your teenage children, too? And probably own and rewatch several times?

I previewed Old Fashioned about a month ago, and am recommending that every Christian–indeed, every person who still believes in true love–to see it in theaters as soon as possible. (Visit this link for theaters and tickets.) The movie tells the story of Clay Walsh (Rik Swartzwelder), a former frat boy once infamous for his reckless and sex-drenched carousing. Having now given his life to God, Clay spends his days running an antique shop in a small Midwestern town, where he notoriously shares his lofty and outdated theories on love and romance with anyone who will listen.

"Mr. Walsh, the world wants to know: 'When are you going to kiss her?'"
“Mr. Walsh, the world wants to know: ‘When are you going to kiss her?'”

Then Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Ann Roberts) drifts into town and rents the apartment above Clay’s shop. This free-spirited young woman with a restless soul finds herself surprisingly intrigued by her new landlord’s faith and noble ideas–and by him. And though Clay tries to fight his own attraction to Amber, he can’t help but be drawn to her spontaneous and passionate embrace of life.

As Clay learns, though, there’s a world of difference between avoiding sexual sin in theory…and actually living God’s glorious plan of chastity out with a beautiful, flesh-and-blood woman before you. Amber, too, must overcome her fears and old habits of relating to men. Together, Clay and Amber attempt the impossible: an “old-fashioned” and God-honoring courtship in contemporary America.

I love wholesome movies, but far too many “Christian”-themed films fall prey to sounding forced and preachy. The Christians tend to be whitewashed, too, along with their minor, often inconsequential problems. And God knows they never have existential crises of faith! The result is usually a film that preaches to the choir (and even then, not too effectively). And that is so self-consciously overbearing that it comes across as condescending and off-putting to non-Christians.

I was pleased that Old Fashioned avoided these pitfalls. While Clay can sound preachy at times when he shares his romantic wisdom with Amber and friends, you can’t help but sense that this avowed Christian is deeply flawed and trying to save himself more than anyone else. Swartzwelder brilliantly presents an honorable yet deeply lonely man, whose faith hasn’t lessened the guilt he still bears over sexually abusing women in his youth. Like so many of us, Clay yearns for love, but has to be convinced he deserves it.

Elizabeth Ann Roberts is radiant as Amber.
Elizabeth Ann Roberts is radiant as Amber.

Roberts is absolutely luminous in her role as Amber. Deeply wounded by her past relationships, Amber nonetheless has a joie de vivre and spiritual openness about her that makes her interest in Clay and his faith entirely believable. That’s one of the best things about Old Fashioned, in fact: the characters are entirely credible. No plastic, one-dimensional caricatures here. I like, too, that supporting roles are comprised mostly of likable, authentic characters who are on their own spiritual journey, just as Clay and Amber are.

Old Fashioned isn’t your typical Hollywood fare. The couple doesn’t have sex or even make out. There are no whips and chains, unless you count the sins and wounds that make Clay and Amber so convincing as people and as a couple. Love is patient, love is kind…love is Old Fashioned. Go see it while it’s in theaters–and send a message to Hollywood that true chivalry–and true love–are making a comeback!

 

 

 

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Movie Review: The Identical

Without realizing it, Ryan Wade begins impersonating his twin brother, Drexel Hemsley.
Without realizing it, Ryan Wade (Blake Rayne) begins impersonating his twin brother, Drexel Hemsley.

Yesterday, I enjoyed an advanced screening of The Identical, a new film by City of Peace Films. The movie stars several big-name actors, including Ray Liotta, Seth Green, and Ashley Judd.

I was intrigued by the premise of The Identical even before seeing it because my mother was an avowed Elvis Presley fan. Few people know that Elvis had a twin that died soon after birth. This fictional movie asks the question, “What if Elvis’s brother hadn’t died, but the two were actually separated at birth and grew up apart?”

The Identical begins with a young, poor, and newly married couple having twin boys during the Great Depression. Soon after their birth, the father attends a tent revival meeting where a traveling minister (Ray Liotta) asks the congregation to pray for him and his wife (Ashley Judd), whose prayers for a child have gone unanswered.

There’s a heartrending scene when the father of the twin boys tells the mother that he thinks they ought to offer one of the boys to the minister and his wife to raise. “We can barely feed ourselves,” he says. “With one child, we can just make it.” The mother violently resists, but comes to see the necessity of her husband’s proposal and agrees to adopt one of the boys out to the other couple.

I’ve rarely seen a film that treats infertility or adoption realistically. The Identical, however, captured the unspeakable agony of spirit inherent in both miscarriage and in handing your child to someone else to raise. The adoption in particular was treated sensitively and without the usual rose-colored glasses; you really sensed the profound, ongoing loss of the birth mother, as well as the humble gratitude of the adopted mother, in this movie.

The baby who stayed with his natural parents goes on to become iconic rock ‘n’ roll star, Drexel “The Dream” Hemsley, but scenes of his rising stardom are only shown to parallel and punctuate the true story, and that’s the spiritual journey of his adopted brother, Ryan Wade. Having grown up and faced down his father’s plans for him to become a preacher, too, Ryan is relentlessly drawn toward a career in music. He goes on to–ironically–work as a Drexel Hemsley impersonator called “The Identical.” Eventually he discovers his true identity, but not before spending much time and energy trying to figure out God’s unique calling for him.

identical1
The Identical shows the pain of both miscarriage and losing a child through adoption with a poignancy that few films today do.

The core issues of the movie–forming your identity and discovering God’s unique plan for your life–are especially likely to resonate with teens, who are dealing with these same issues for themselves. The movie is exceptionally clean, too–there’s no cursing, only one kiss (at a wedding and it’s the bride and groom), no violence, and no sexual content. The main character never devolves into damaging, sinful choices. In fact, his eschewing of alcohol during times of temptation and high stress are especially good messages for teenagers. Franciscan University of Steubenville is offering a free downloadable youth discussion guide for parents and youth ministers to use after seeing the movie.

The movie isn’t likely to break records; it’s devoid of all the sex, violence, and special effects that usually make for box office hits. But it’s a heartfelt, very human story that in many ways mirrors the quest we all are on to “find ourselves” when we become adults. The acting of Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd is splendid and I found myself tearing up at the end when the truth is revealed to Ryan about his origins.  The movie works on many levels, with its true strength being that its story can appeal to youth, parents, adoptive parents, birth parents, adopted children, siblings, Christians, and just about anyone with a dream.

If we want Hollywood to make more family-friendly films that explore real spiritual issues , then we need to support movies like The Identical. So go see the movie, which will be out in theaters on Friday. And enjoy that rare film that makes you think and whose characters aren’t ashamed to ask the most important question of all: “Who does God want me to be?”

For the trailer and more information about The Identical, visit the film’s website at http://theidenticalmovie.com/

identical3
Ray Liotta gives an outstanding performance as a passionate Protestant minister.

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REVIEW: Gimme Shelter

I’m a picky movie goer: I don’t want to fork over cash to support movies that worship the gimmie (non)culture. I  I found out about Gimme Shelter from Jason Jones with Movie to Movement whose mission is to “promote films that make a difference – films which promote a culture of Life, Love and Beauty.”  I also watched the trailer on youtube. I could tell from both that this movie wasn’t going to be about gimmies, but about giving.

Gimme Shelter gave. and gave. and gave.  It provided a visceral moviegoing experience infused with meaning.  Before I went to see it I read a review that criticized having lead actress Vanessa Hudgens cut her hair. The critc said the movie never assigned a purpose to this. Gazing at the big screen, it was gut wrenching watching how helpless she was in her drug infested environment and getting ready to possibly eek out an existence on the streets. I was amazed that the reviewer couldn’t imagine the liberation in having control over something in her life for a change or the protection in looking less feminine before hitting the uncaring pavement. Watching the scissors open and close and the locks fall into the sink you saw her grasping at power and protection simultaneously. It all seemed so real: not painted and remote like an old Hollywood classic, but gritty and actual like a documentary.

gimme-shelter-movie-poster

It gave a glimpse into one of the big threats to the culture of life in the West: the cruel and heartless materialist. Joanna Fitzpatrick, the wife of Apple’s father, was the character hardest to empathize with.  ***Possible Spoilers*** She scoffed openly at the thought of Apple being pregnant in front of her face and pitted our main character against her father. Joanna left Apple at the doctor’s office, forcing her to walk home from the OB and later faint from the effort. Joanna promised she would hold Apple’s hand during the abortion and left her high and dry and all alone in the clinic. Joanna refused to look past her perfectly manicured life to sympathize or suffer with Apple.

It gave a platform.  This movie wasn’t written by a Hollywood household name, but Providence worked around that. Gimme Shelter features Disney starlet Vanessa Hudgens. Throngs of young men and women follow her because of role in High School Musical. Writer and director Ronald Krauss actually wanted to cast an unknown for the role of Apple to make it authentic and believable but Miss Hudgens poured herself into the character during her audtion. When he ran her recording past the young mothers at the shelter, they picked out Miss Hudgens from all the other auditions. Miss Hudgens’ young fans have a chance at hearing the movie’s positive message because of her presence. They can hear her pitch this movie on the early morning, afternoon, and late night shows they watch.

It gave present day inspiration. Kathy Difiore was unknown to me before this film.  Finding out that she quietly opened 5 shelters for homeless expectant mothers with little fame or recognition in the past 30 years blew me away.

It gave me the opportunity to learn more about movie trivia. I love watching behind the scenes and hearing the birth stories of movies. I learned about Kathy Difiore and her amazing connection with Blessed Mother Theresa here:

 

(Remember this when you see the Mother Theresa photo in the film!)

I learned about Darlisha Dozie and how she inspired Writer/Director Ronald Krauss to pursue the motion picture format here:

(Remember this when you see Darlisha’s beautiful face in the film!)

Gimme Shelter gave me an opportunity to go to a regular priced movie theater on opening night to plunk down some cash to see a movie that made me cry tears of both sorrow and joy:  and I felt really good inside supporting it. This film is getting unwarranted cruel treatment by mainstream critics, please go out and see it for yourself!

DCP_4156::Brigitte Gawthorp is a Maryland girl who moved to Texas as soon as she could. She is a cradle Catholic who reverted from a cultural faith to an enthusiastic orthodoxy in adolescence. She has four children who are each 3 years apart and they keep her life interesting! When she isn’t Facebooking about auto glass for the family business she Facebooks about everything else.::

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MOVIE REVIEW: Mary of Nazareth

Though we have previously heard about Mary’s life through Sacred Scripture with a primary emphasis on Christ’s life, the movie takes us through those familiar stories and puts a fresh and different perspective on her life. It takes her from Mother of God, someone whom we venerate, and places her in front of us in everyday, real situations that we often face ourselves. Even though the movie is about Mary’s perspective, it rightly maintains Christ as the intricately woven influence in her life. This movie will resonate for those with or without a Marian devotion, and even those who are curious to know who Mary was simply from a historical standpoint.

From the Mary of Nazareth website”This full-length feature film about the life of Our Lady, shot in English in High Definition, was filmed in Europe in very authentic locales with outstanding cinematography, a strong cast, and a majestic music score. Actress Alissa Jung gives a beautiful, compelling and inspired portrayal of Mary.”

Mary&AnnIn the beginning. We are introduced to Mary and her family, mother Ann and father Joachim. We immediately see how special she is and how God protects her even in the face of eminent danger. We feel the emotions that her parents must have felt as she was dedicated to the temple in service to the Lord. Throughout her life, there is constant element of childlike faith. Preserved by God Himself, we see Mary’s faith in action, always succumbing to His will before her own.

Compare and contrast. Through the movie, we see three women’s lives and the effects of their choices – Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalen, and Herodias, daughter of Herod. We see both Mary’s as friends in the beginning, but soon see the vast difference of journeys each takes. Our Lady, whose life is in complete service to God, and Magdalen, who seeks validation and self-worth through domination and lust. After a lifetime of debauchery, she shows up at Christ’s feet like a war-torn soldier with nothing left to give. She uses what little energy she has left to completely surrender to Him after He challenges those without sin to cast the first stone in the face of what is certain death. Herodias, on the other hand, remains a cold and vindictive person whose heart is hardened by the very mention of Jesus. Her reaction to Christ parallels the hardness of heart we see in the pharaoh of Moses’ time. We see Magdalen reclaim her femininity by wearing modest apparel – we see this change in her demeanor and appearance go from a haggard, chewed up and spit out by society look to someone who suddenly has the glow of Christ and embodies the forgiveness we all crave as sinners.

public shameShame and humiliation. Throughout Jesus’ life, we know that He accepted a life of worldly humiliation for the sake of paying our debt. We also know that He could have chosen not to feel the pain of the Cross, but freely chose to, out of love for us. Likewise, we see the shame and humiliation that Mary must have felt throughout her life. Although she always placed her trust and care in God’s loving hands, the reality of her situation was, indeed, difficult – carrying a child out of wedlock, enduring the stares, silent and not-so silent gossip whenever she was around, the embarrassment the families faced on their wedding day, even when it seems as though Jesus publicly repudiates Mary. Each stage of her life, we see how Mary responds to the humiliation with perfect and total trust in God’s plan.

ShepherdsHumor and humanity. This movie delivers when it comes to humor. When Mary arrives to visit her cousin Elizabeth, Zechariah opens the door, but fails to answer Mary’s greeting because of his own misgivings from months prior. We also see Joseph do what every father does when their child has come into the world – count toes! When the shepherds arrive to adore the Messiah, Mary is all too quick to hand over the Anointed One, but Joseph has a look of near panic on his face. It’s easy to imagine what he must have been feeling as the one chosen by God to be a protector of both Mary and Jesus!

Location, cast, and music. The full-length film was shot in English in HD quality in Europe. The location and cast both deliver and add to the authenticity of the story. The music score, written by Guy Farley, brings an element of beauty that builds upon the emotion from the scenery and acting.

Rating. PG – based on the official website question section – due to the scenes from Herod’s court and Magdalen’s overt sexuality, viewer discretion is advised.

No matter if you have a devotion to Mary or not, let us all adopt her fiat in response to God’s call for our lives. This is a movie that will bring you closer to understanding the bond between Mary and her Son, our Lord and Savior.

If you haven’t yet, please read my promotional piece on this movie.

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MOVIE: Mary of Nazareth – Coming to Austin!

MON.screensaver.10241Restless Heart Austin and John Paul II Life Center have partnered together to bring you two days of screenings of a wonderful, new full-length movie, Mary of Nazareth. The endorsements of this movie give a wonderful portrayal of the movie and its content. If you are in the Austin area and would like to attend, the movie will be shown various times throughout the day at the Marchesa Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, October 5th and 6th. Visit Restless Heart’s website to order your tickets or purchase your tickets in person.

Marian expert, Fr. Donald Calloway had this to say – “’Mary of Nazareth’ offers the best presentation of Our Lady I have ever seen. It is an absolute theological and Mariological masterpiece! It will make you want to love her more than ever. Without a doubt, this is the most stunning portrayal of the Virgin Mary on film!”

MARY OF NAZARETH is an epic new motion picture on the life of Mary, mother of Christ, from her childhood through the Resurrection of Jesus.

This full-length feature film about the life of Our Lady, shot in English in High Definition, was filmed in Europe in very authentic locales with outstanding cinematography, a strong cast, and a majestic music score . Actress Alissa Jung gives a beautiful, compelling and inspired portrayal of Mary. Pope Benedict XVI had the opportunity to screen this film in the Apostolic Palace, and was touched by the portrayal of Mary so movingly revealed on film.

The film vividly captures the essence of Mary’s profound faith and trust in God amidst the great mysteries that she lived with as the Mother of the Messiah, her compassionate humanity and concern for others, and the deep love that she and Jesus shared for one another. This movie underscores her special role in God’s plan for our redemption, her unique relationship with Christ, and the tremendous suffering that she endured in union with his passion and death, as well as her serene joy at his Resurrection.

Directed by acclaimed European film director Giacomo Campiotti (BAKHITA, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, ST. GIUSEPPE MOSCATI) and written by Francesco Arlanch (RESTLESS HEART, PIUS XII, POPE JOHN PAUL II), in addition to the luminous performance by Jung, the film provides inspiring portrayals of all the main roles, including Andreas Pietschmann as Jesus, Luca Marinelli as Joseph, Paz Vega as Mary Magdalene and Antonia Liskova as Herodias. The original music score was written  by Guy Farley.

I’ve included a couple of film clips to whet your appetite.