The Chaperone

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The Chaperone

Runtime 107 minutes Not Rated

Louise Brooks was the original “it” girl in 1920s movies. This is the story of her trip from her home in Kansas in 1922 at the age of 16 to take some dancing classes which started her on the road to stardom.

Her mother (Victoria Hill) won’t send her unless she has a chaperone. Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern), a conservative local society lady, volunteers to accompany Louise (Haley Lu Richardson) to New York for the summer, leaving her husband, Alan (Campbell Scott), and two grown sons to fend for themselves in Kansas. 

The acting is drop dead wonderful.

Directed by Michael Engler and written by Julian Fellowes from the eponymous best-selling novel by Laura Moriarty, this is a sensitive tale that asks the question, who is the chaperone? The stilted Norma learns as much from the free-spirited Louise as vice-versa.

The acting is drop dead wonderful. Both McGovern and Richardson give sparkling performances. The production values are exceptionally good, capturing the era and ambience of the ‘20s.

How it got to be made and by whom is interesting. McGovern was retained to record the audio book. While she was recording she thought that it would make a terrific movie, so she bought the rights and put together the team from her crew on the TV series Downton Abby and this is the result.

While the facts on Brooks are accurate, and while she did have a chaperone when she went to New York to dance with the Denishawn dancers in 1922, nothing is known about the chaperone so the character of Norma and her story is entirely fictional. But it is Norma’s story that is told and how teenager Louise’s avant-garde sexual morality affects her life.

Unfortunately, the end of the story presents a 21st century Hollywood Values resolution that is far more secular and anti-traditional morality, a politically correct freedom from moral stringency, than existed in America in the 1940s.

Stay for the end credits because there are a few shots of the real Louise and the resemblance between her and Richardson is striking.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.

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