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Charming the Hearts of Men sounds like the title of an indie film straight out of the mid 1990s. It is the story of a turbulent time in the history of the United States. Grace Gordon (Anna Friel) moves back to her hometown but finds her options limited due to her gender. But with the help of a Southern congressman (Kelsey Grammer), she has plans to make big changes.
Setting a story in the politically charged times of the Civil Rights movement requires care. Especially when it is going to be as light hearted as Charming the Hearts of Men has a tendency to be. There is a risk of the more serious issues being taken less seriously.
Almost predictably, that is what happens in Charming the Hearts of Men. Along with dealing with the gender divide, the plot also tackles themes of race and class. The importance of the moment is never lost, but the sometimes whimsical tone clashes with the message.
One thing that is never at doubt are the performances. Friel gives audiences a character that is filled with desire and wants change but never seems preachy or holier than thou. This is important since so many reasonable arguments are invalidated by a condescending attitude.
As expected, Grammer is great. The Congressman has the haughty personality that made Frasier Crane so popular. The pompous attitude is not confined to wine tastings, however. He wants to help make real change.
The film does a great job of recreating the look of the period. Charming the Hearts of Men goes beyond simple text and the occasional old car. The costumes and even the feel are true to the time. It does an excellent job of placing audiences in the period.
Charming the Hearts of Men is a strong story involving romance, politics, and change. The acting is great and the production design is expertly done. At times, it is a little uneven tonally, but it is an entertaining watch.
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