Australian Council on Children and the Media

The Chaperone

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Not recommended under 13; parental guidance to 15 (Adult themes, sexual references).

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for The Chaperone
  • a review of The Chaperone completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 6 May 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to adult themes and sexual references.
Children 13-15 Parental Guidance Recommended.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: The Chaperone
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and infrequent coarse language
Length 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in the prohibition era of 1922, The Chaperone is based on true events concerning the life of Louise Brooks (Hayley Lu Richardson), a dancer and silent movie actress. At the young age of 16, Louise was accepted into the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts in New York. As it was unacceptable for a young girl to travel alone, she would have been unable to make the journey from her hometown in Wichita Kansas without the intervention of Mrs Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern) who offered her services as a chaperone.

Norma had her own reason for travelling to New York, which was to discover who her birth mother was. She had been brought up in an orphanage there and was adopted by a farming family in Kansas. There she met her future husband Alan (Campbell Scott), a lawyer, and lived a privileged lifestyle. Her marriage was not ideal however, and Norma discovers more on her journey than she could have imagined.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Adoption; child abuse; infidelity.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Norma is so angry when she discovers Alan has been cheating on her. She screams at him and throws things at him.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There is nothing particularly scary in this film.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • Nothing of concern.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Louise tells Norma that she was sexually abused at the age of 9 by her Sunday school teacher, who also took photos of her afterwards. She says that her Mother said it must have been her fault.
  • Norma does in fact find her birth mother but is disappointed to realise that she doesn’t want to know her or to include Norma in her present family.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Alan had been having an affair with a man called Raymond since they were both at law school. Alan thought being married would help him to stop wanting to be with Raymond but it didn’t happen. He tells Norma that he could be killed if it got out (it was a criminal offence at the time).
  • The movie moves on twenty years and Louise returns to Kansas completely washed up. She thinks her career is over at the age of 35 and has become a depressed drunk. Norma manages to talk her into moving on with her life.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Coca Cola

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Louise flirts with most boys and men she meets.
  • Norma tells Louise that ‘men don’t like candy that’s been unwrapped’. Louise says did Norma really think the men in the dining car would have their way with her under the table.
  • A man called Joseph asks Norma if 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 9 to her Sunday school teacher, who also took photos of her afterwards. Her mother seemed to blame Louise for leading him on. Norma says she was a ‘victim of wicked abuse’.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Norma is seen undressing for bed beneath her petticoat.
  • Louise is seen in a bath covered in bubbles.
  • Norma walks in on Alan and Raymond in bed together.
  • Norma kisses a man and they are later seen in bed together.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • During prohibition in Kansas there’s no drinking 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.
  • Drinking at the dinner table.
  • Several characters smoke.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Jesus
  • Oh God
  • Pain in the arse
  • God knows

In a nutshell

The Chaperone is a period drama set in the early 1920’s. It is beautifully portrayed, showing the vast contrast with life today, not quite 100 years on. The subject matter is quite heavy though with quite a lot of sexual references and other adult concepts and is therefore not recommended for children under 13. Parental guidance is also recommended for children aged 13 – 15.

The main messages from this movie are the need to find one’s identity and to believe in yourself.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Acceptance and tolerance.

 This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their teenage children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • The difference in moral values in the 1920’s to now such as: how young women were meant to behave; how alcohol was prohibited at the time and that homosexuality was a criminal offence.

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