A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It takes a certain amount of bravery and rule-breaking to live the life you want to live. Sometimes it's important to stop caring about what others think and do what you think is right.
Positive Role Models
Louise at 15 wanted to live life fully, but felt that the rules of her stodgy upbringing were holding her back. Norma never questioned those rules until she saw a chance at happiness.
Violence & Scariness
A man has to shove another man in order to get a drunk 15-year-old girl out of a speakeasy. Orphanages refused to put kids in touch with their birth parents. Shortly after World War I, Americans called a man with an accent a "dirty Kraut."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
SPOILERS BELOW: Louise flirts and shows off in front of men. Louise, who is 15, says she lost her virginity to a teacher. Norma discovers her husband has a gay lover. Although she never questions authority or rules, she takes a lover of her own. "Men don't like candy that's been unwrapped," is the warning Louise is issued. Norma was abandoned by an unwed mother who is now respectable and therefore feels she can't acknowledge her many decades later. It's implied that a young dance teacher cheats on his wife. A male modern dancer wears nothing but shorts. Two male lovers are seen jumping out of the bed they are sharing.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Underage Louise sneaks off to a speakeasy and gets drunk, then later throws up, and suffers a hangover. A woman appears to be an alcoholic.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Chaperone is a made-for-PBS-television film written for the screen by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes from a novel by Laura Moriarty. Although set in 1922, the tone is modern as it touches on infidelity, clandestine gay lives, racism, unwed mothers, repressed women casting down their social shackles, and rule-breaking behavior of such outliers as the young Louise Brooks, who would one day become a celebrated silent movie star and memoirist. Two male lovers are seen jumping out of the bed they are sharing. Orphans, homosexuality, racism, out-of-wedlock babies, women's liberation, changing morals, prohibition, and other 1920s issues are the underlying themes. Shortly after World War I, Americans called a man with an accent a "dirty Kraut." Underage Louise sneaks off to a speakeasy and gets drunk, then later throws up, and suffers a hangover. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Twists and turns of this movie are alternately predictable and engaging, but for the most part the story seems a bit too timid and neatly tied up to pack the emotional punch it might have had. Performances by the endearing McGovern, who is around twenty years older than the book's character, and the cheeky Richardson are solid and admirable, but they can't overcome a sense that the script feels pat and obvious, relying on both a metaphorical and a real restrictive corset to remind us how repressed women of the time were.
That Louise will become an international film star whose persona embodied the iconoclastic flapper of the Jazz Age -- the precursor to the modern liberated woman -- gives the story more weight than it would otherwise deserve. The Chaperone's quick wrap-up suggests that Norma's snap decision to change her life (by breaking every rule that's guided her narrow existence) somehow results in a seamless transition from frustration and powerlessness to complete happiness and self actualization. That's a bit hard to swallow. The fact that her triumph runs simultaneous over twenty years to Louise's real-life collapse from celebrated star to the washed-up drunk who returned to Wichita in shame feels cheap and unearned.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.