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She had her own agenda when she accepted the position and chance to spend the summer in New York. In 1922, Cora Carlisle, wife and mother, made the surprising decision to accompany her neighbor’s daughter, 15-year-old Louise Brooks, from Wichita, Kansas, to New York City, so the girl could audition for a place in a prestigious dance company. Had she chosen not to shun Paramount for denying her a guaranteed raise, she likely wouldn’t have secured her immortality in Germany, where she pushed the boundaries for sexual frankness in 1929’s “Pandora’s Box,” a landmark work glimpsed all-too-fleetingly in the end titles. –fame and fortune. Readers will be particularly struck with Moriarty’s ability to capture an era, making it easy to imagine just how difficult it would have been for Cora to make the transition from the quiet, proper Wichita to the bustling streets of New York during the exciting Roaring Twenties. Nonetheless, being a chaperone to the spirited girl was not Cora’s only goal. “The Chaperone” may be receiving a limited theatrical release, yet it is no more cinematic than any given episode of “Downton Abbey,” the series that Engler and Fellowes will be bringing to the big screen later this year. The book also has a strong theme of secrets and the consequences of keeping them close. The friendship that evolves between the mismatched pair is certainly among the film’s primary focuses, but it often plays second fiddle to Carlisle’s solo journey of self-discovery, and ultimately self-actualization. Carlisle has resigned herself to the routines of an empty home life, yet something awakens within her as she watches 15-year-old Brooks dance with carefree exuberance for an uptight audience of elders. With her innocence forever robbed prior to her tenth birthday, she later reclaimed her sexuality, inspiring countless women like Carlisle to seek the sort of personal fulfillment that Close championed so eloquently in her Golden Globes speech. However, the pleasure of Louise’s company isn’t what’s brought Norma east. At least the movie can claim truth in advertising. Having been abandoned by her biological mother (Blythe Danner) soon after her birth, she is desperate to track the elusive parent down in the hopes that it will provide her with a sense of direction and catharsis. It is, after all, called “The Chaperone.”. The 1920s was a time of great technological and social change, and women were experiencing more freedoms than ever before. But when Norma says she once thought of becoming a nurse and one of her adult sons pipes up, why not a doctor? From her trend-setting bobbed hairstyle and non-theatrical emoting to her rejection of gender norms that led her to become an outsider in Hollywood, Brooks sorely deserves to be the subject of her own film, hopefully one headlined by Richardson. The prude who approves of Prohibition will, well – spoiler alert – loosen up. EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Mama book trailer, Got a green thumb? “The Chaperone” is a rigged shell game. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. While her charge is in dance class, she heads to the New York Home for Friendless Girls, i.e., the nun-run orphanage from which she was adopted. Louise, of course, is a handful – a madcap hoyden with an independent spirit. Her terse response to his declaration of love, “That’s nice,” foreshadows a wrenching flashback where McGovern transforms her lines into a howl of pent-up fury after decades of consistently repressed needs. In The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty starts with a true event, transporting readers to 1920s New York City through the story of Cora Carlisle, temporary guardian of the teenage Louise Brooks. If Norma is worried about her charge’s virginity, well, don’t. It’s a place where men always want to buy her things, be it ice cream or gin – “just for the pleasure of my company,” as she puts it. It has all the trappings of a Masterpiece Theatre production—picturesque scenery, impeccable costumes, gleaming period-accurate decor—yet there are certain areas of craftsmanship where the picture is noticeably lacking, even when viewed on a laptop. “The Chaperone” doesn’t need one. Cora, however, was equally resolute in keeping Louise on the straight and narrow. Required fields are marked *. Most glaring is the poor ADR work for Hungarian actor Géza Röhrig, whose warm smile as Carlisle’s love interest is refreshing to see after his shattering debut in László Nemes’ great “Son of Saul.” Yet whenever his character speaks, the ambience suddenly cuts out, causing the dubbed words to be no less convincing than those uttered by Tommy Wiseau in “The Room.” It’s a technical misstep too distracting to overlook, especially since it clashes with the subtlety of Röhrig’s performance. Even though Brooks is hardly a familiar name anymore, she does provide some marquee value (for a few movie-lovers, at least). Barely 16, her family thinks she’s much too young to go there unaccompanied. Copyright © 2020 SheKnows Media, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC. Even when she’s asked to do the impossible during an epilogue that jumps ahead two decades, requiring her to portray a 35-year-old version of herself with age lines suggested solely through smudges on her face, Richardson somehow suspends our disbelief through the dramatic shift in her behavior. First, she wanted to know more about her past and the woman who had abandoned her at a city orphanage. She left that back in Wichita. This is also one of those annoying movies that invests the time in which it’s set with a more forward-looking attitude than actually existed. Well-behaved and genteel from the get-go, it has its pleasures, but being wild and crazy is not one of them. It is called “The Chaperone,” true. Devoid of the vigor that marked her adolescence, Brooks now resembles a hollow shell whose youthful fire has been stamped out, courtesy of endless battles with studio moguls and patriarchal oppression. This stuff ‘n’ nonsense comes to us courtesy of Julian Fellowes who has had the world at his feet ever since “Downton Abbey.” Maybe that’s what “The Chaperone” needs: a healthy dose of Maggie Smith. Despite McGovern’s limited screen time, she and Richardson proved equally deft at ensuring that their characters emerged as fully realized beings rather than mere sounding boards for their male co-stars. It is largely to the credit of McGovern’s superb performance that Carlisle emerges as a compelling subject, since she also happens to be almost entirely fictional, contrived by Moriarty as the Julie Powell to Brooks’ Julia Child. Filmmaker Michael Engler is trying to make some points about flappers and feminism (the picture is set in 1922, two years after women got the vote). The Chaperone, like the young Louise Brooks, is clearly destined to be a star. On the cusp of her character becoming one of the most sexually liberated stars of the silent era, Richardson radiates the allure and sophistication that made Brooks such a revolutionary figure onscreen. Moriarty was inspired by the beleaguered real-life chaperone who accompanied Louise on just such a trip, but she has imagined the rest of Cora’s story, which manages to outshine Louise’s. “The Chaperone” may be receiving a limited theatrical release, yet it is no more cinematic than any given episode of “Downton Abbey,” the series that Engler and Fellowes will be bringing to the big screen later this year. Her lack of knowledge regarding the functions of her body at an early age—she thought menstruation signaled impending death—deftly illustrates the pitfalls of innocence, as does Carlisle’s marriage to her much older husband (Campbell Scott) at age 16. Yet rather than brood in quiet desperation, Carlisle has prioritized true happiness, however private it may be. Among the most awe-inspiring tools in an actor’s arsenal is the ability to convey the wholeness of one’s inner life in a single glance. The Chaperone is about its title character, whose voyage of self-discovery would be more compelling if it were less glib and predictable. Meanwhile, Norma’s journey is a pain – joyless, boring and predictable. With her fashion-forward bob and low-cut dresses, Louise was determined to take the city by storm. Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in N And find she’s much happier that way. When Jeannie’s earnest heart-to-heart with Conrad is disrupted by a raucous gang of jocks, her first impulse is not to jeer at them with idealized heroism, but to laugh in embarrassment, a far more human and painfully relatable response. Brooks is one of the most-intriguing people in the history of film. “The Chaperone” truly is a bait-and-switch story. The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both. Adapted by Julian Fellowes from the bestselling book by Laura Moriarty, this handsomely mounted production initially resembles the sort of sentimentalized historical fiction that would’ve likely tested the patience of its own real-life heroine, silent screen icon Louise Brooks (Richardson).
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