Story

Set in New York during the prohibition era of 1922, The Chaperone is based on the life of Louise Brooks (Hayley Lu Richardson), a dancer and silent movie actress.

When Louise is 16, she’s accepted into the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts in New York. Because it’s inappropriate for a young girl to travel alone, Louise needs a chaperone for the journey from her hometown of Wichita, Kansas, to New York. Mrs Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern) offers her services.

Norma has her own reasons for travelling to New York, which is to discover who her birth mother was. She was brought up in an orphanage and adopted by a farming family in Kansas. There she met her future husband, Alan (Campbell Scott), a lawyer, and lived a privileged lifestyle. But Norma’s marriage isn’t ideal, and she discovers more on her journey than she could have imagined.

Themes

Adoption; child abuse; infidelity

Violence

The Chaperone has some violence. For example, Norma is very angry when she discovers Alan has been having an affair. She screams at him and throws things at him.

Sexual references

The Chaperone has some sexual references. For example:

  • Louise flirts with most boys and men she meets.
  • Norma tells Louise that ‘men don’t like candy that’s been unwrapped’.
  • Louise asks whether Norma really thinks the men in the dining car will have their way with her under the table.
  • A man called Joseph asks Norma whether she’s trying to be seductive.
  • Norma asks Louise if one young man ‘took advantage of her’. This is when Louise tells her that she lost her virginity at the age of nine to her Sunday School teacher, who also took photos of her afterwards. Her mother blames Louise for ‘leading him on’. Norma says she was a ‘victim of wicked abuse’.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

The Chaperone shows some use of substances. For example:

  • During prohibition in Kansas, drinking alcohol isn’t allowed. But when Norma and Louise get to New York, Louise goes to a club and gets drunk on gin. Norma takes her back to the hotel where she throws up in the toilet.
  • People drink alcohol at dinner.
  • Several characters smoke.

Nudity and sexual activity

The Chaperone has some partial nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • Norma undresses for bed beneath her petticoat.
  • Louise is in a bath covered in bubbles.
  • Norma walks in on Alan and Raymond in bed together.
  • Norma kisses a man. They’re later shown in bed together.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in The Chaperone: Coca Cola.

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language in The Chaperone.

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Chaperone is a period drama set in the early 1920s. It’s beautifully portrayed, showing the vast contrast with life today. The subject matter is quite heavy, though, and there are many sexual references and other adult concepts. Therefore, this movie isn’t recommended for children under 13 years. Also, we recommend parental guidance for children aged 13-15 years.

The main messages from this movie are about the importance of finding out who you are and believing in yourself.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include acceptance and tolerance.