Charming the Hearts of Men Parent Guide
The film's solid messages are presented with so much moral force and so little nuance that it's the cinematic equivalent of a sermon.
Parent Movie Review
Returning home for a funeral is always a sorrowful occasion, but Grace Gordon’s (Anna Friel), grief is deepened by the news that her father died broke. The Southern belle has inherited a mansion, some nearly worthless farmland, and a stack of unopened bills. Luckily, her household consists of two loyal retainers – the cook, Mattie (Starletta DuPois) and her granddaughter, Jubilee (Pauline Dyer). The three women confer and decide that since the bank won’t make loans to women and Grace has no employable skills, her best shot at financial security is marriage. So they get out her late father’s address book and start inviting men over for a home-cooked meal.
Key advice for aspiring writers is “show don’t tell.” Unfortunately, the screenwriter for this film seems to be blissfully unaware of this wise counsel. Instead of telling a story and letting viewers draw their own conclusions, the script contains dialogue designed to bludgeon audiences with the message that racism and sexism are demeaning. I totally agree with the equal rights message, but it’s presented with the kind of determined earnestness that marks bad Sunday School movies. It makes the show feel less like entertainment and more like a sermon.
This is particularly unfortunate because Charming the Hearts of Men tells an important story. It offers a painful look at the problems faced by women – White and Black – in the South in 1963. While searching for work, Grace learns that women can be paid less than men and that there’s nothing to stop lecherous employers. She is repeatedly demeaned by her banker (who is such a one-dimensional slimeball that he barely qualifies as a character) and is often patronized by other men. And life for Black women is worse, as one bar patron clearly explains in an impassioned diatribe: “Y’all so fired up about civil rights? What about Jane Crow? What about us?”
In a not-at-all-surprising coincidence, this storyline about intersectional feminism conveniently intersects with Grace’s personal life. Among her father’s friends is a congressman, played by Kelsey Grammar. He wants to spend time with Grace and enjoy Mattie’s cooking, but reality intrudes and the proposed Civil Rights Act forces him to take sides in a divisive issue. His situation only becomes more complicated when Grace requests that women’s rights be included in the bill.
I love a good history movie and am particularly irked that Charming the Hearts of Men falls so far below its potential. The cast is good, the sets are appealing, and the story could have been intriguing. (Especially if it had told the real story about how sexual discrimination was included in the Civil Rights Act. Not only is truth stranger than fiction; it’s far more interesting.)
If you’re willing to overlook the film’s preachy tone (as well as some profanity and non-explicit sexual content at a PG-13 level), there are some good messages for teen viewers. It’s not a fun popcorn flick; it’s not a charming romance; and it’s not real history. But if you want your teens to learn about the evils of racial and sexual discrimination, this movie is an unsubtle way to get those messages across. There might not be a lot of nuance but, boy, is there a lot of clarity.Directed by S E DeRose. Starring Anna Friel, Kelsey Grammar, Starletta DuPois, Pauline Dyer, Sean Astin. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release August 13, 2021. Updated August 17, 2021
Watch the trailer for Charming the Hearts of Men
Charming the Hearts of Men
Rating & Content Info
Why is Charming the Hearts of Men rated Not Rated? Charming the Hearts of Men is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: People in a truck swing at a man with a baseball bat; they miss. A man fires a shotgun at a woman. Boys rope a woman by her ankle and drag her on a lawn. When Black patrons sit down at a diner, they and the employees are pushed, thrown, punched, and kicked by a group of angry white men.
Sexual Content: A woman is seen in her underclothes, adjusting her breasts. A man and woman kiss as he dresses in the morning. He pays her, with the implication that it’s for sex. A man ogles prospective female employees and slaps the backside of one of them. Pin ups are briefly seen on an office wall. A woman visits other women inside a brothel. A woman models lingerie. A woman undresses to swim in a lake and a man starts disrobing to follow her. A shirtless man paints the toenails of a woman lying in bed covered with a sheet; recent sexual activity is implied. A man and woman kiss. A woman suggests a slang term for sex. Women compare themselves to “fresh meat”.
Profanity: Two sexual expletives are used in the film. There are about ten terms of deity and scatological curses. There are a dozen mild profanities and fewer than ten anatomical terms. A racial slur is used as is a demeaning term for someone with an intellectual impairment. A crude term for a prostitute is used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People drink and smoke cigarettes throughout the movie. A main character drinks to manage stress and is shown as inebriated.
Page last updated August 17, 2021
Charming the Hearts of Men Parents' Guide
Had Grace been a man, what options would she have had to save the family home? Why were these options unavailable to women? Had sexual discrimination been illegal in 1963, how would Grace’s interactions at the bank and with potential employers been different?
The congressman has a debate with a women’s rights advocate and a union leader about broadening the protections of the Civil Rights Act to include women. Why does the union leader object to extending equal rights to women? What arguments does the women’s rights advocate use in rebuttal? What do you think about the argument that it’s better to be “protected” than “equal”?
Related home video titles:
On the Basis of Sex tells the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose legal career was dedicated to eradicating discrimination against women.
Dr. King is mentioned a few times in this film. The reference is to Martin Luther King, the great civil rights leader. Part of his story is told in Selma, a film about the Voting Rights Act.