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.