Charms for the Easy Life, Showtime's upcoming original telefilm, offers a promising premise: The lives of three generations of women, headed by a spirited matriarch who takes on the conventional male hierarchy and practices her own brand of effective homeopathic medicine.
But the promise of this film, based on a best seller by Kaye Gibbons, is unkept. Even with little in the way of emotion to weigh it down, it trudges gamely to its conclusion. Watching until the end is more of a duty than a pleasure.
The film starts off showing potential. A practitioner of herbal remedies, Charlie Kate is moving to North Carolina with her husband when they happen upon a lynching. She cuts down the victim in time to save his life and he rewards her with a talisman he tells her will give her an "easy life."
Cut to the 1930s, when Gena Rowlands now plays Charlie Kate. Her husband has abandoned the matriarch and her daughter, Sophie (Mimi Rogers), is now a love-crazy adult.
Charlie Kate doesn't tolerate fools — not the town fathers who've yet to install sewers in the "colored" neighborhoods, or the rich toad her daughter's intent on marrying. Sophie defies her mother and Charlie Kate boycotts the wedding, vowing never to set foot in her child's house. Sophie bears a daughter, but not before she realizes her husband is an unfaithful wretch.
The situations are rife with drama, but Charlie Kate is played with such great stoicism that the whole film feels flat. There are few scenes after the first 10 minutes in which one feels Charlie Kate's scrutiny by the patriarchal "system."
Dramatic missed opportunities abound. A scene where "Dr." Charlie Kate visits a critically ill baby — who's blinded by the malpractice of the town's real doctor — elicits no sense of real outrage.
And where it's supposed to peak, it wilts, as Sophie keels over in a faint just because she sees a dead rat.
Charms for the Easy Life
debuts Aug. 18 at 8 p.m.