The Downton Abbey movie doesn’t come out until September. But the tea-and-crumpets brain trust behind the hit upstairs-downstairs drama has been moonlighting with another period film in the meantime, The Chaperone.
Written by Julian Fellowes, directed by veteran Downton helmer Michael Engler, and costarring the Countess of Grantham herself, Elizabeth McGovern, this lifeless adaptation of a book by Laura Moriarty shifts its gauzy lens Stateside to tell the true-ish story of Jazz Age sensation Louise Brooks before she and her severe black bob would take Hollywood by storm.
Fellowes’ signature cocktail of soapy melodrama and wry quips delivered out of the sides of his characters’ mouths (when they’re not downing champagne cocktails, that is) is AWOL here. Fortunately, he has the electric young actress Haley Lu Richardson (currently in the sick-teens love story Five Feet Apart) as his Brooks — a liberated young modern-dance student in Wichita who ventures to New York City accompanied by a stuffy Kansas society matron (McGovern) to launch the career that will soon have her smoldering from the covers of movie magazines.
The drama, such that it is, centers on the tension between the free-spirit wild child and her stuffy chaperone. But it’s little more than a handsome snooze that even the Masterpiece Theatre crowd may find a bit too snoozy. C
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The Chaperone (2019 movie)