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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth McGovern’

“DOWNTON ABBEY” My rating: B+ 

122 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Feature film spinoffs of successful TV series have an iffy track record (“Sex and the City,” “Entourage,” “Absolutely Fabulous”), but the folks at “Downton Abbey” have done it right.

The new “Downton Abbey” movie is an astonishingly effective piece of work, one that hits all the notes that made the TV show so successful and then adds a couple of new ones.

Will the movie make sense to anyone who wasn’t glued to PBS on Sunday nights?  Well, maybe, but the real pleasure here comes from continuing our relationships with characters we already know inside out.  It’s like a family reunion…only you actually like hanging with this family.

Writer Julian Fellowes, who created the series and scripted most of its episodes, provides a screenplay that gives almost every member of the huge cast at least one memorable moment and effortlessly balances multiple story threads.

Director Michael Engler deftly handles the pacing and the impressive technical production (he’s in charge of the actors, too but since most of these players have been doing their characters for the better part of a decade, how much coaching could they have required?).

The plot? Well, there are a dozen of them, but the overriding one has the King and Queen visiting Downton. It’s like when the FBI takes over a local murder investigation…Their Majesties’ arrogant retainers invade the Abbey, relegating the resident staff to observer status.  But not for long, thanks to machinations that come off as a more genteel iteration of “Revenge of the Nerds.”

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Haley Lu Richardson, Elizabeth McGovern

“THE CHAPERONE” My rating: C+

103 minutes | No MPAA rating

A pall of old-fashioned made-for-TV mediocrity hangs over much of “The Chaperone,” a Masterpiece Theatre production based on a highly-regarded novel by Lawrence resident Laura Moriarty, adapted by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey,” “Gosford Park”) and featuring a more-than-solid cast.

Blame veteran TV director Michael Engler and a stingy budget for fumbling the ball here.

At first glance one might assume that this is the story of the young Louise Brooks, who in the 1920s went from Wichita to a starring role with a top New York dance troupe and then on to international stardom as the ultimate flapper and sex symbol of silent film.

Not really.  Brooks (played here by Haley Lu Richardson) certainly has a role in this yarn, but its real focus is a middle-aged Kansas  housewife and mother  (Elizabeth McGovern) who agrees to chaperone the young hellion during her Big Apple sojourn. In  the process the older woman finds her own world exploding and expanding.

Norma (McGovern) first lays eyes on 15-year-old Louise at a Wichita dance recital where she is mightily impressed by girl’s flamboyant Isadora Duncan-ish flouncing. Norma is a stolid Midwestern matron, stuck in a sexless marriage (that’ll be explained later) to a lawyer (Campbell Scott); they have twin college-bound sons.

When she learns that Louise has won a coveted spot with the famous Denishawn modern dance company in NYC, and that the girl’s parents are looking for an appropriate chaperone to accompany their daughter to the big city, she volunteers. Heck, she needs some adventure.

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