Lauren and Ned are engaged, they are in love, and they have just ten days to find Lauren's mother who has gone AWOL somewhere in the remote far north of Australia, reunite her parents and pull off their dream wedding.
Charlie has a neurological disorder so strong emotions, especially joy, make him faint. He lives with his brother. Working as librarian gives him a quiet environment but then Francesca enters the library and his life.
In this handsome period piece perfectly suited for cinephiles of all stripes, director Michael Engler (Downton Abbey, 30 Rock, Six Feet Under) and screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park) bring a fascinating slice of pre-Hollywood history to light in a coming-of-age story centering on the relationship between the young, free-spirited and soon-to-be international screen starlet Louise Brooks (a riveting, high-intensity Haley Lu Richardson) and her tee-totalling chaperone (a wonderfully nuanced Elizabeth McGovern). On their journey from the conservative confines of Wichita Kansas to the flash and sizzle of New York City, both women are driven by a kindred desire for self-discovery and liberation from the past. Based on the book by Laura Moriarty and anchored by a superb supporting cast (Miranda Otto, Géza Röhrig, and Blythe Danner in a key cameo), The Chaperone is a sensitive, resonant, and illuminating tale of women's lives in the early 20th century.
The creator of Downton Abbey wrote the screenplay for The Chaperone, a story ostensibly about legendary silent screen star Louise Brooks' first trip to New York. Louise's cultured and elitist mother has big dreams for her daughter, which won't happen if she stays in Wichita. Louise (Haley Lu Richardson) can go to New York only if accompanied by a chaperone, and Elizabeth McGovern's Norma eagerly volunteers, for reasons later revealed. Richardson transforms wonderfully, capturing Lulu's energy and insouciance. Brooks quickly becomes the star pupil at the Denishawn Dance School, holds court at a swank Speakeasy called the Velvet Cat, and resents being told what to do by Norma, whom she likes but doesn't necessarily respect. The push-pull between Norma and Louise is a highlight.
Norma, with her nineteenth century sense of propriety, lives in quiet disappointment and repressed anger. Shocked by what she caught her husband (an excellent Campbell Scott) doing, and haunted by murky childhood memories, in which she was abandoned at a Catholic orphanage, waiting for adoption. The only thing that excites her is tracking down her birth mother and pining for a late life renewal. The film has a pleasing symmetry in how the two women's stories are told: For Brooks, it's just beginning, but also for Norma, in a feel-good twist of irony that is so very Downtonesque.
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