Charms is not Quite Charming Enough
Charlie Kate (Gena Rowlands - The Color of Love: Jacey's Story) is the matriarch of the Birch family; 3 generations of women and she is a woman who does things her way. A self taught healer who treats all and sundry, Charlie Kate was married till her husband didn't return from work one day. Her daughter Sophia (Mimi Rogers - The Devil's Arithmetic) seems to have inherited the same gene as her marriage was blighted by an untrustworthy man yet is still desperate to find another. And then there is Sophia's daughter, Margaret (Susan May Pratt - 10 Things I Hate About You), a shy young woman who adores Charlie Kate and follows in her footsteps as she learns about caring for the sick and injured, much to Sophia's annoyance.
"Charms for the Easy Life" on paper sounds like a movie which should be right up my street with a nostalgic tale of three generations of women living in North Carolina. It's the sort of movie which you expect to be a generous mix of amusing, dramatic and romantic in a similar style to say "Fried Green Tomatoes" or "The Secret Life of Bees". Unfortunately it doesn't quite work; "Charms for the Easy Life" lacks that easy going flow and warmth which you expect and ends up feeling a little disjointed as it tries to cram together a series of events in the lives of these three women.
Now I haven't read Kaye Gibbons' novel which "Charms for the Easy Life" is adapted from but it is very obvious that to fit the story of the Birch women into a movie it has been cut down. The trouble with this is that it not only causes the story to become disjointed but also at times confusing. Right from the word go it feels like a hatchet job has been done in order to get to the point where Charlie Kate, her daughter Sophia and granddaughter Margaret all living under the same roof and at an age where Margaret is becoming a woman. It makes it feel like it is rushing to get to the main part and those scenes which not only link everything together but explain things are missing.
The choppy nature of "Charms for the Easy Life" continues till at least the midway point where we seem to be getting snippets of storyline which don't naturally follow each other and actually end up being confusing. A prime example is a scene where having gone to the pictures to see "Gone With the Wind" Charlie Kate walks out and Margaret follows where they sit on a bench and read a book. Now there is something said about the book, something which appears like it is trying to be funny yet because there is a sudden jump from walking out of the pictures and that line it doesn't work or really make sense. And sadly issues constantly creep up as it appears only the pivotal points of the story have made it onto the screen yet those parts which make sense of it all are missing.
And to be honest it is a shame because what comes across on the screen is that "Charms for the Easy Life" is a movie which wants to be amusing, charming and soaked in nostalgia as it ends up not only focusing on the relationship of the Birch women but also their relationships with the various men in their lives. As already mentioned it has that feel of "Fried Green Tomatoes" with an opening narration from Margaret which has that air of reminiscing to a bygone era. And there are glimpses of that nostalgic charm and fun which you expect especially when it comes to Charlie Kate being a very forthright woman who doesn't suffer fools whilst having things her way. It is those glimpses which keep you interested because everything else which goes on ends up feeling quite flat.
What this all boils down to is that "Charms for the Easy Life" is not a terrible movie but lacks the flow you expect from a nostalgic tale of 3 generations of women living in North Carolina. It does have its moments and there are a few really good scenes which make you smile but it suffers because it ends up not only disjointed but also confusing.