Charming The Hearts Of Men: Review – To paraphrase Jane Austen: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman without possession of good fortune, must be in need of a husband for means of support.
There are clear parallels here to Austen’s frequent premise of a woman (in this case Grace Gordon, played by Anna Friel) having to marry into wealth for lack of her own financial security. Before the legislation of equal gender rights, women’s prospects and opportunities have always been limited. This is true both of their status in society and, in this particular instance, the workforce.
Directed, written and produced by S.E. DeRose, Charming the Hearts of Men is witty, lighthearted and set firmly in the mould of romantic comedy drama. This soothingly upbeat tone might, therefore, be a little at odds with the rest of the story’s harder hitting comments of civil rights, not just of gender but also, as a parallel theme race.
Though not played strictly for laughs, the levity is such that the film, thankfully, does not become preachy, although it does also lack some edge which would have been nice to see as a contrast.
Kelsey Grammer has gravitas as The Congressman, also the most eligible bachelor on whom Grace sets her sights. Cast to type he exudes the same verbose pomposity and bumbling self satisfaction he brought to his famed television character Frasier. It’s a role he slips into easily and is a pleasure to watch.
Friel carries the film well enough, with ample support from the rest of the cast, American small town caricatures from the 1960’s, with attitudes to match. Sean Astin brings depth and a refreshing humanity to his character, George, a kindly shopkeeper who shows sympathy towards Grace.
The attention to period detail is impressive and the production certainly looks the part. The costumes, cars, pastel shades and colours lend themselves to the steamy Southern location. It’s smoothly shot, with a warmth which captures the heat and politically charged atmosphere, but the pace is flat, it stays too much on an even keel, leaving little emotional or narrative dynamic which is needed to give more tension to the drama.
As an important moment in history this is definitely a story which deserves telling. It’s told in a pleasant enough way but is let down by its slowness momentum and inconsistency of tone.
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