First Hit: In its own way, I really enjoyed the way societal subjects are addressed in this story.
The story takes place in and around the 1930s (and later) and begins in Wichita, Kansas goes to New York City and then back to Kansas.
Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern) is reluctantly attending a party set up to present Myra Brooks’ (Victoria Hill) daughter Louise (Haley Lu Richardson), in a modern dance recital.
There is tension in Norma between her and her husband Alan (Campbell Scott) along with a social awkwardness that Norma carries in the gathered groups.
During the recital, Norma overhears Myra tell someone that she is looking for a chaperone for her daughter’s upcoming trip to New York to take classes at the Denishawn School of Dance.
Although the audience finds out later, we’re not clear at that moment why Norma is drawn to and wants to take on this responsibility of becoming Louise’s Chaperone. At the first meeting of Norma and Louise, we are treated to the blossoming curiosity and know-it-all attitude of this young seventeen-year-old girl.
The trip to New York by train shows where this film will go; respect, disagreements, and friendship.
The story flows quite nicely and has fun moments, but what struck me was how it addressed, infidelity, gay relationships, adoption, parenting, family dynamics, sexual assault, fame, racism, and other societal issues that we are still addressing today. This is the treasure of this film.
McGovern was superlative in this role, and her face, when she meets her mother for the first time, is priceless. Watching the inward feelings change as the conversation progresses was subtle and powerful. Richardson was fantastic in the role of a dancer who was wise beyond her years. She carried the wisdom of her past and the challenge of youth, wonderfully. Hill, as Louise’s mother, was impressive. I liked that it made sense for her daughter to be the way she was because of how she was raised by Myra. Blythe Danner as Mary O’Dell was excellent. You could just feel how she wanted to both acknowledge her past but to keep it separate from her present. Scott was excellent as Norma’s troubled husband doing his best to live with his truth. Geza Rohrig as Joseph, the man who was the nun’s handyman was outstanding. His understanding and compassion were bright spots in the story. Andrew Burnap as Floyd, the fountain bar worker, was good. Julian Fellowes wrote a progressive screenplay that covered so many exciting topics. Michael Engler got fantastic performances from the cast and created an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable movie.
Overall: This film may not seem like much, but if you dig deeper, the audience is in for a real treat.