Louise Brooks Society

louisebrookssociety.blogspot.com · Apr 17, 2019

Review Round-up: the Louise Brooks inspired film, The Chaperone

Among the Louise Brooks and silent film communities, there has long been interest in the just released film, The Chaperone. Based on the 2012 novel by Laura Moriarty and released by PBS Masterpiece, the film tells the story of the summer of 1922 when the teenage Brooks (played by Haley Lu Richardson) travels to New York City in the company of a chaperone (played by Elizabeth McGovern).

Courtesy PBS Distribution
Over the last year, but especially within the last few weeks, I have posted a number of pieces about the film on this blog. I have also just written my own review, a longer piece which I originally titled "Louise Brooks, The Chaperone, and the shaping of a legend." My review, which is now titled "Never the Victim: Louise Brooks and The Chaperone," was published by Film International. Please give it a read and let me know what you think. (It was pointed out that my piece contains a factual error, the fact that actress Julia Roberts is not from Kansas, but from Georgia. Mea culpa.)

Courtesy PBS Distribution
With it's Downton Abbey lineage, there were high expectations around the The Chaperone. Unfortunately, those expectations are falling short. Many of the dozens of reviews only give the film a middling review, pointing out its good and not-so-good points. Many of them make similar points. Nearly all of them discuss Louise Brooks. Here is a short list of the interesting reviews and article so-far.

"Haley Lu Richardson on The Chaperone, the Real Louise Brooks, & Getting a Chance to Dance"
by Christina Radish / The Collider

"Elizabeth McGovern on The Chaperone and women finding happiness on their own terms"
by Maureen Lee Lenker / Entertainment Weekly

"Lawrence author’s tale of famous Kansan is now a movie, with Downton Abbey pedigree"
by Jon Niccum / Kansas City Star

"The Chaperone Is a Sublime Account of Flapper Icon Louise Brooks’ Early Life"
by Rex Reed / New York Observer

"The Chaperone introduces a wild young star, then looks elsewhere"
by Richard Roeper / Chicago Sun Times

"Review: Shades of Downton Abbey color The Chaperone"
By Kenneth Turan / Los Angeles Times

"Enjoy The Chaperone for its strong female leads, but don’t expect it to roar"
by Pat Padua / Washington Post

"Film Review: The Chaperone - Haley Lu Richardson has the sensual vibrance to play silent screen legend Louise Brooks, but this tale of her first New York visit is a staid tug-of-war"
by Owen Gleiberman / Variety

"With The Chaperone, three Downton Abbey veterans reunite. And, boy, is it ever boring"
by Bill Goodykoontz / Arizona Republic

"Downton Flabby: Period Piece The Chaperone Is A Let-Down"
by Mark Jenkins / National Public Radio

A number of the reviews repeat familiar and not always true notions about Brooks (suggesting she was the It girl, and not Clara Bow), while others get their facts wrong. One review called Elizabeth McGovern by the name Maureen McGovern - of "Morning After" fame. Others confused Wichita, Kansas with Topeka and Cherryvale.

There are more reviews which a Google news search will turn-up. Increasingly, reviewers are turning away from describing The Chaperone as the story of a woman on the road to find out (a story of discovery), to it being about Louise Brooks, which it isn't intended to be but kind of becomes. None, so far, have noticed the historical inaccuracies in the film.

Courtesy PBS Distribution
If you are a Louise Brooks fan and this blog post dampens your interest in seeing the film, don't let it. Go see it if you can. I like it, all-in-all. And I think most fans of Louise Brooks will as well.

The film is in limited release - so you will need to check the thechaperonefilm.com website for locations where it is showing. Strangely, so far, it is not listed as showing in Wichita, Kansas. Though, it is set to open in Rochester, New York on April 19. It is not listed as opening in the town where I live - Sacramento, California.

Courtesy PBS Distribution
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