The Chaperone (2019)

I was at first curious about this film and after seeing the trailer I decided it was worth a chance.  I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth McGovern for years, and she has only become more eloquent with time. McGovern can do more with a look than most do with a page of dialogue.

Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Carlisle

I am usually not a fan of these period films, and the story of two women on a journey is not my typical movie fare, but I sensed an intelligent story and something that I might enjoy.  I did.

Based on Laura Moriarty’s best-selling novel, the story here is quite a bit different than the real trip that Louise Brooks took to New York in 1922 to become a dancer.  Cora Carlisle, a married woman also from Wichita, jumps at the opportunity to accompany Louise to New York as her chaperone.  Cora has many reasons for wanting to go to New York.

The Chaperone is about two mismatched women, each on the verge of big changes in their lives.  While they don’t become best friends, they move from tolerant to respectful, and even a bit thankful for the opportunities that emerge.

The film, produced by PBS Masterpiece, the producers behind Downton Abbey, delivers an imperfect, but very interesting story, that has twists and revelations as the lives of both characters spin in very different directions.

The real Louise Brooks

Haley Lu Richardson as Louise Brooks has star-power, and turns in a superb performance.  The real Louise Brooks was ahead of her time and would outlasted her stay in Hollywood.  Brooks was Madonna, fifty years earlier.  You get a glimpse of that in Brooks’ confident sexuality. Yet, she’s as complex a character as McGovern’s Cora Carlisle.

McGovern burst onto the scene in Ordinary People (1980).  A year later she was nominated for Academy Award for Ragtime.  For the past twenty years she has called England home, and in her spare time fronts an eclectic band called Sadie and the Hotheads.

The supporting cast includes Campbell Scott as Cora’s husband, Géza Röhrigand as Cora’s new lover, and Blythe Danner as Cora’s birth mother.  There’s a lot going on here for a respectable lawyer’s wife from Wichita, Kansas.

The audience here is Downton Abbey fans but there is an entertaining film if you give it a chance.  Wait for it to be available on a streaming service and take a chance.

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