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.
Although it is not identified as such, the musical that Norma and Louise attend is Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake's "Shuffle Along." See more »
Two scenes show a train going to or from Kansas, but does not show American railroad equipment. The steam engine is British or European. American railroad equipment does not the have buffers (two round bumper-like fixtures on each end of engines or cars). The engine shown has buffers. See more »
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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