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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Illustrates importance of women's rights being included in the U.S. 1964 Civil Rights Act. Themes include empathy and perseverance. Film does its best to fairly present characters' historically accurate thinking and reservations about change, revealing thought processes of the era.
Positive Role Models
Characters are complex and human; almost no one is perfect here. Through eyes of formerly affluent lead character Grace, viewers understand lack of freedom and choice that women had as "the protected class" in early 1960s; she takes steps to help those whom she realizes are in greater need than herself. Sex workers are depicted without judgment. In the end, Grace realizes that she can make a positive difference in a lot of people's lives, including her own. Characters aren't 100% progressive -- they have historically accurate reservations about change -- but they grow and evolve.
Story is told from perspective of privileged White woman who only realizes the lack of agency women have when forced to find a means to take care of herself. But there are complex characterizations of both Black and White characters, Black characters are key to the plot, and the movie doesn't land as a White savior narrative. Both women and people of color are largely depicted neutrally or positively, though some of the 1960s-era beliefs wouldn't hold up today. Most minor White male characters are depicted as sexist or racist, but two primary male characters are more nuanced. A pawn shop owner lives his life without prejudice. An older man in position to create change demonstrates an ingrained bias: He sees himself as a friend to the Black community but not necessarily as their equal. A fight breaks out when a group of White men confront peaceful Black protestors at a sit-in. White women are shown standing up for social justice: They intervene, even throw the first punch.
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Violence & Scariness
Pushing, shoving, one big punch during a bar fight. An aggressive character threatens a trespasser by holding and firing a gun. Implied domestic abuse. Workplace sexual harassment. Leering.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Women are shown using sexuality to survive in a variety of situations. A recurring one-night stand is depicted via a morning-after scene. Women are shown in lingerie and wearing dresses with plunging necklines. Kissing. Nude bottom seen. Some romantic plot elements that involve women as leading or active, willing participants.
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Strong language includes "ass," "bitch," "goddamn," "hell," "pr--k," "s--t," "snatch," "t-tty," "whore," and several uses of "f--k." Racist and offensive language includes "darkie," the "N" word, "piece of ass," and "retard."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Frequent drinking, including on the job, often shown or discussed as positive or just a part of life (although one character is seen negatively for her alcohol dependency). Cigars are shown to be refined and sublime. Constant cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Charming the Hearts of Men is a 1960s-set drama inspired by true events that explores how equal rights for women were included in the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. The primary point of view is that of a newly broke, divorced Southern socialite named Grace Gordon (Anna Friel), whose financial difficulties reveal to her how little agency '60s women have over their own futures. Female characters are shown, without judgment, using their sexuality for financial survival, from getting clerical work to trying to secure a rich husband to being paid for sex work. A nude backside is seen in the moonlight, but nothing sexual occurs on camera other than brief kissing. The story plays out against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, with one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s associates trying to garner support among the Southern Black community. Themes include empathy and perseverance, and characterizations are complex and nuanced, allowing viewers to hear the arguments made at the time both for and against civil and women's rights. Both sexist and racist language ("darkie," "piece of ass," the "N" word) is included as part of the movie's efforts to paint an authentic picture of the era; other words include "s--t," "f--k," and more. Characters drink and smoke, both cigars and cigarettes. There's a bar fight, domestic abuse is implied, and someone fires a gun as part of a threat. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Under the initial guise of being an early '60s-era romcom, S.E. DeRose's film waxes nostalgic about America's good ol' days before making it very clear that it wants to show how far we've come. It reminds viewers that, not all that long ago, many considered women "useless" except for taking care of their husbands and children. The early '60s is when the patriarchy was at its modern height in the United States: The early women's movement of the 1910s and '20s had calmed, and there was wider acceptance of the idea that a woman needed a man to take care of her. Without one, women had a harder time creating financial security; here, we see women from all walks of life feeling like they must rely on their sexuality to get by.
First, there's Grace, who inherits her father's estate, only to learn that the money's dried up. Believing she has no employable skills, she sets out to find a rich husband. Then the movie's lens slowly widens to include other women, too, until we get a much broader picture of early-'60s sexism. Like a tree, the story keeps growing branches, highlighting the political hot topic of the day: "Jim Crow must go." The male characters, both Black and White, convey the spectrum of attitudes from the era: Some are dedicated to pushing for equality, while others feel they've already made great progress, so why stir the pot? Hearing the arguments of the time delivered by characters who aren't villains isn't something that happens often in movies about race, gender, and power. If only the story of Charming the Hearts of Men was true. The real political maneuver that eliminated "Jane Crow," as well as Jim, is less noble. But as long as you're OK with the fact that this film is a bit of an alternate reality, it offers teens an insightful look at how things have changed since the '60s and why it's so important not to regress.
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