Sunday, March 31, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Chaperone

The Chaperone
Directed by Michael Engler
Released March 29, 2019

The times tend to dictate how successful a particular person can be. There are those who advocate for themselves and manage to persevere beyond what has been allotted to them by the society in which they exist, but circumstances outside their control may eventually derail them from achieving their perceived destinies. Fame and fortune may be fleeting, and the lessons learned in the course of pursuing happiness will linger as the remnants of trying hard and not necessarily succeeding in the long run in the expected or desired way.

In the 1920s, Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern) jumps at the opportunity to offer herself as a chaperone for aspiring dancer Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson), who wishes to attend a program in New York City. Leaving her well-to-do Wichita life and her husband Alan (Campbell Scott) behind, Norma is opened up to an entirely new world that she previously occupied only briefly as a child, leading her to learn new things about herself and to meet a kindly man named Joseph (Géza Röhrig). At the same time, Louise is drawn to the free thinking and general spirit of individual prosperity that exists in New York in a way that, at the time, would never be possible back in Kansas.

This film’s title places the emphasis on Norma rather than Louise, who became an actress and later an author, arguably the showier figure. Norma is enthusiastically greeted by an eager young waiter at a diner, only to be entirely ignored the moment that Louise walks in and takes his breath away. Lost and unfulfilled, Norma is seeking a reinvention that she doesn’t even realize is necessary, and Joseph is one of the rare few who sees her for who she is and not the people around her who have come to more strongly define her. As Norma is shocked by the lack of segregation and other progressive city novelties, she discovers the most about who she is meant to be and how she might be able to be truly happy.

McGovern, who spent many years on “Downton Abbey,” which will soon be continued in a feature film helmed by this film’s very director, Michael Engler, is the perfect fit for Norma, deferential to everyone else in her life yet full of passion where it counts. Richardson, who has impressed in films like “Support the Girls,” is energetic and provocative, even if the role doesn’t give her quite as much to do. This film showcases a worthwhile journey in a standard and mostly interesting manner, never quite gripping but completely watchable.

B

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