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 »
In the film, Louise Brooks wears her hair long until her first dance lesson in New York, after which she cuts it into a bob, ostensibly to stand out from her classmates and/or to be more fashionable, as the flapper style popularized women having shorter hair.
In reality, Brooks had worn a bob since she was a child. See more »
It's not about Louise Brooks in her Hollywood years
The story takes place when the teenage Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) leaves Wichita for New York City. She has been accepted to a major dancing academy and has no doubt that she'll be asked to join their dancing troupe. She is, as required at the time, accompanied by a chaperone, Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern). The spirited Louise and the proper Norma seem to have little in common other than wanting to be in New York City. But we soon learn that there is more to Norma than meets the eye. A couple of surprises explain Norma's earlier behavior in her interactions with her husband (Campbell Scott) as well as her later behavior as the story progresses.
McGovern and Richardson share most of the screen time along with some brief appearances by Amanda Otto, Blythe Danner and Géza Röhrig. I continue to be impressed with Richardson who came to my attention, in 2016, in Split and The Edge Of Seventeen.
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