Based on the best-selling novel by Laura Moriarty, The Chaperone is a charming story set in the tumultuous 1920s, following the early career of young starlet Louise Brooks.
While the story delves into Brooks’ path to movie stardom, it also unearths the intriguing life of her older chaperone, housewife Norma Leslie, hence the film’s title.
Beautiful and talented Brooks (a dazzling Haley Lu Richardson) is afforded the opportunity to move to New York to enrol in the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing, while mild-mannered Norma (Elizabeth McGovern) volunteers to escort her cross-country to the Big Apple for the summer. Both women are eager to start anew for different reasons, leaving their small-time lives in Kansas far behind to fulfil a destiny that neither could fully predict.
Haley Lu Richardson plays an alluring character who was once one of the most sexually liberated stars of the silent era.
Sumptuous ’20s art décor is crafted to perfection with stylish sets and costumes that are as beguiling as the enigmatic Louise herself. The stars align among high society, as interwoven stories delve deeper into moralistic impropriety and themes of self-worth and forlorn love.
Trying to control the wayward and headstrong 15-year-old Louise who dreams of fame and fortune while struggling to guide her moral virtues, Norma has her own agenda. She is enchanted by Louise’s exuberance and yearns freedom from her own domestic entrapment. It’s here that McGovern’s compelling performance becomes the primary focus.
Ultimately, though, it is Richardson who radiates most, playing an alluring character who was once one of the most sexually liberated stars of the silent era. In The Chaperone, Louise Brooks’ revolutionary career is fast-forwarded 20 years – an interesting jump in time in the film, but leaving us asking questions without resolve.
This film could have been a magnificent biopic on a big star however it oddly puts the limelight on Norma Carlisle, herself an adopted orphan searching for her real parents. Norma has a backstory that challenges all of 1920s middle-class American values. With an undisclosed past, she is seemingly living a normal life with her lawyer husband and two adult boys, all of whom are successful and well-adjusted people… to the external observer. Secrets eventually unravel as does Norma’s life as a consequence of her journey to New York, adding a depth of intrigue to the characters.
The screen play is thinly drawn from creator of Downtown Abbey, Julian Fellows, and while always gentile, it does come off rather trite when there is such depth in the true life story of Louise Brooks.
Nonetheless, a stellar supporting cast includes Blythe Danner, Campbell Scott, and Aussie actress Miranda Otto, each playing intriguing roles and each doing their best to inject an honest essence into their respective characters.
Set in a time where laws and women were only just starting to relax the grip of conventional gender codes, The Chaperone makes for a heart-warming, agreeable film to indulge in.
Part Hollywood biopic, part period drama, The Chaperone is ultimately a study on the search of identity and belonging, no matter where you sit on the career ladder.
‘The Chaperone’ is in cinemas April 25, 2019.
View the trailer here:
WIN! IN-SEASON DOUBLE PASSES TO SEE ‘THE CHAPERONE’
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Competition closes 5pm AWST, Thursday 25 April, 2019.