Tag Archives: Elizabeth McGovern

The Chaperone Movie Review

The opportunity to travel offers more than what it appears to be. It is more than the place one goes to, it is the emotional experience and the growth that comes with travel.

The 2018 movie, The Chaperone, is based on the book of the same name by Laura Moriarty. At the age of fifteen, future silent screen star Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) is given the opportunity to study dance at a prestigious school in New York City. But a fifteen year old girl cannot travel alone, especially in 1922. Norma (Elizabeth McGovern) is there to make sure that Louise stays out of trouble.

But Norma has her own reasons for leaving Kansas and her family behind. Can she find the answers she is looking for and will Louise become the star that she dreams of becoming?

Penned by Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellows, this movie is interesting. I appreciated the parallel character arcs of the lead characters. Though their end goals are different, their individual journeys are remarkably similar. I also appreciated the relationships with the men around them are secondary to the relationship between Norma and Louise.

However, compared to Downton Abbey, this movie is kind of meh. Though I have not read the book yet, I did not have the chill up my spine that I had with Downton.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

The Chaperone is available for streaming on Masterpiece.

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Downton Abbey Movie Review

On the surface, transforming a popular television program into a film seems easy. The beloved characters and well known narrative are already in place, it is just a matter choosing how to expand the world beyond what already existed on the small screen.

But like many things, it is often easier said than done.

The Downton Abbey film premiered last night. Set a year and a half after the television show ended, everything is tranquil. But tranquility, as it always does on Downton Abbey, does not last.

King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will be visiting the Crawleys while on a tour through Yorkshire. The news forces the Crawleys and their servants to be on their A-Game. But being on their A-Game is a challenge to say the least.

Upstairs, Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and the rest of the family are preparing to be the perfect hosts for their majesties. Downstairs is a flurry of activity, which requires the steady hand of Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to keep everything running smooth. That steady hand is not helped by the royal servants, who take over the running of the ship while the King and Queen are in residence at Downton.

There are quite a few movies that have been made based on television programs. A good number try, but don’t live up to the reputation of it’s television predecessor. Downton Abbey not only lives up to that reputation, it builds the reputation of the series and the world within the series.

Though some reviewers have stated that this movie is strictly for the Downton Abbey fan base, I disagree. It helps to have at least some knowledge of the television series, but it does not hinder the overall enjoyment of the film if one goes in as Downton newbie.

I absolutely recommend it.

Downton Abbey is currently in theaters.

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Do Writers Write To Be Read Or Do Writers Write For The Sake Of Writing?

For many writers, the goal is to become a professional writer in whatever genre or format they write in. But the reality is, that for every writer who has that successful career, there are many for whom writing is a side project or an unfulfilled dream.

In the new movie The Wife, (based on the book of the same name by Meg Wolitzer), Joan Castleman (Annie Starke) is an undergrad in the late 1950’s. Her professional goal is to become a writer. When she meets Elaine Mozell (Elizabeth McGovern) at an alumni event, they have a discussion about being a writer and writing. Elaine has been published, but her book only resides in the alumni library. Joan insists that writers write for the sake of writing. Elaine responds that writers write to be read.

The conversation begins at 1:16.

From my perspective, both arguments are valid. Sometimes, you write for the sake of it. You write just to get it down, regardless of quality. But, at the same time, the goal for all writers is to see their name in print, whether that is on a byline or under the title of a book.

Charlotte Bronte once said the following:

 “I’m just going to write because I cannot help it”

I’m a firm believer in that whether we write to be published or write for sake of writing, it is the act of writing that matters.

Readers, what do you think? Do you write to be published or do you write just for the sake of writing? I would love to know your thoughts.

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Downton Abbey: The Exhibition Review

At first glance, Downton Abbey appears to be just another BPD (British Period Drama).

But it so much more than that. Set in an English aristocratic home in the early 20th century, the focus of Downton Abbey is the story of the Crawley family, led by the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) and their household staff.

Recently, Downton Abbey: The Exhibition opened.

The visitor is first greeted by Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan). Mr. Carson is eager to show the visitor the upstairs where the family lives, but he questions why the visitor is interested in seeing the downstairs portion. The visitor then goes up three flights of stairs, starting with the kitchen and areas where the staff congregate, then following the escalators upstairs to see the areas of the house where the family lives.

The exhibit is sheer perfection. Containing costumes, exact replicas of  the sets, audio clips, video clips and so much more, the exhibit was made for the fans. It’s as if the creators of the exhibit were able to read our minds as to what would like to see and experience.

When a television show is as beloved as Downton Abbey is, an exhibit like this is akin to coming home. It is as if the visitor is a fly on the wall of the set. It is beautiful, it is enticing and worth every moment of my visit.

It is a must see.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is at 218 West 57th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue until January 31st, 2018. 

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Time And The Conways Review

Family, if nothing else, is f*cked up.  Just because we love each other and we have the same DNA does not mean that sometimes we can’t stand each other.

The revival of the J.B. Priestley play, Time And The Conways, is set in two different time periods, 1919 and 1937. Mrs. Conway (Elizabeth McGovern) is the widowed matriarch of an upper middle class family in Britain. She has six children: Alan (Gabriel Ebert), Hazel (Anna Camp),  Robin (Matthew James Thomas), Kay (Charlotte Parry), Carol (Anna Baryshnikov) and Madge (Brooke Bloom). The rest of the cast includes two family friends, Joan (Cara Ricketts), Gerald (Alfredo Narciso) and a friend of Gerald’s, Ernest (Steven Boyer).

A friend who saw the play a few weeks ago said that these characters need to be in therapy. I couldn’t agree more. Mrs. Conway is not a bad mother, but her parenting skills need some improvement. I’ll be frank, I saw the play because Downton Abbey is and will always be one of my favorite television shows. I was not going to pass up seeing Elizabeth McGovern live and in person. What I liked about the play is that the playwright not only plays with the grey areas of life, but also that family is not the picture of perfection that we, as an audience almost expect.

I recommend it.

Time And The Conways is at The American Airlines theater until November 26th, 2017. Check the second link above for showtimes and ticket prices. 

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House Of Mirth Review

Edith Wharton‘s 1905 novel, The House  Of Mirth is about the tradition and contradictions in early 20th century New York.

The 2000 film adaptation of the novel stars Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart. She is the star of the social scene, but foolish when it comes to financial matters. She turns down several marriage offers and has a will they or wont they flirtation with Lawrence Selden (Eric Stoltz). When she innocently accepts money from Gus Trenor (Dan Akroyd), who is married to her best friend Judy (Penny Downie), her social standing begins to fall.

I saw this movie for the first time last night and though I have yet to read the book, I will do so shortly.  Edith Wharton, in this novel is a feminist. She writes about upper class women, who in the early 20th century were expected to marry. Education beyond a certain point and a career was out of the question. Lily is unmarried; a woman’s reputation or lack there of, especially a unmarried woman’s reputation at that time could be her best friend or her worst enemy. Anderson who is best known for her role as Dana Scully on the X-Files, completely breaks with the iconic sci-fi character to play a woman whose life spirals out of control.

The supporting cast includes Jodhi May, Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Linney and Anthony LaPaglia.

I highly recommend this movie.

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Lady Almina And The Real Downton Abbey Book Review

Highclere castle has become iconic in it’s own right. Not just because it is the real castle where the fictional Downton Abbey is set, but also because is the home of Lord and Lady Carnavan. In the 1920’s, the 5th Lord Carnavon teamed up with Howard Carter to locate and excavate King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Lady Almina And The Real Downton Abbey , written by Lady Fiona Carnavon, is the non fiction story of her husband’s great-grandmother, Lady Almina, 5th Countess of Carnavon.  Like her fictional counterpart, Lady Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), Almina is the illegitimate daughter of the wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild and his married mistress, Marie Wombwell. Almina is 19 when she marries; she brings to her husband a fortune that will save his family and his home. They will eventually have two children. During WWI, Almina opens her home the soldiers returning from the front.

I found this book to be fascinating. While Downton Abbey fans know the fictional Crawley family and their servants, the story of the real life Highclere castle and the Carnavon family is just as impressive a story.

I recommend this book.

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Life Is Better Than Art

I am Downton Abbey Addict. There, I said it. My addiction has started to move beyond the television series  to the real and fascinating history behind the television series.

Highclere Castle’s current mistress, Fiona, Countess of Carnavon, has written two books on the history of her home and her husband’s family. The first novel, published in 2011, Lady Almina And the Real Downton Abbey, The Lost Legacy Of Highclere Castle, focused on her husband’s paternal great grandmother.  Her 2013 novel, Lady Catherine, The Earl And Real Downton Abbey focuses on her husband’s paternal grandmother, Catherine, Countess of Carnarvan.

 Like her fictional counterpart, Cora, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), Catherine is an American heiress who marries Lord Porchester, son and heir to George, 5th Earl Of Carnavan. Lord Carnavan was part of the expedition that initially discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen. Her life is fascinating. She was born in 1900 and died in 1978. She lived through two world wars, became a member of the British aristocracy through her marriage and watched the world change around her.

I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because I enjoyed reading about the real history and the real people that are part of the history of Highclere castle. Reading the book bring a real, historical perspective to fictional Downton Abbey and the characters that inhabit that world.

I recommend this book.

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Downton Abbey Series 4 Episode 5 Recap

*-Recap contains spoilers. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the episode.

Upstairs

Edith is pregnant. That’s right, she’s got a bun in the oven, going to join her sisters in the state of motherhood. And Michael is still conveniently still missing.  I’m not one to point fingers, but wasn’t it Edith who used the s-word against her sister in the first series after the Pamuk incident?

Speaking of Mary, Evelyn Napier has brought his boss, Charles Blake  (Julian Ovenden) to Downton. Their relationship can only be defined as Beatrice and Benedict like. Anyone well versed in the rules of rom-coms can predict where this is going. Lord Gillingham who?

Isobel and Violet are back to their Odd Couple ways (Do I smell a spinoff?) In an effort to prove that young Mr. Pegg did not steal from the Dowager, Isobel goes to her house and pretending to be tired, does a little sleuthing (Another sequel, perhaps, Isobel Crawley, Mistress Sleuth). She finds what was conveniently was thought to be stolen.

The surprise for Robert’s birthday is to bring Jack Ross and his band. Not surprisingly, Rose was found with Jack after dinner making out in the servants dining hall.  Sybil’s relationship with Tom has nothing on Rose’s teenage rebellion and her relationship with Jack.

There was the inevitable awwww moment when George and Sybbie were brought into the nursery after the discussion between Mary, Isobel and Tom about their lost loves.  It was a simple, sweet scene that Julian does not often put in, but is appreciated when it is part of the show.

Robert has to go America to rescue Cora’s brother Harold from a scandal.  Welcome to America.

Downstairs

Carson looked as if he might burst, not only when Jack enters the servant’s dining, but when Jack has the gall to sit in his chair at the head of the table.  He tried to be polite, but you knew he wasn’t happy.

Anna and John go to a nice restaurant for dinner, but the hoity toity matrei’d denies them a table, despite making a reservation.  That is until Cora conveniently puts her two cents and they get a table.

Jimmy has become Mr. Willoughby, or Gaston, whichever floats your boat. Either way, he went from merely cocky to a jerk. Good for Ivy, standing up for herself.

One of the candidates who made it in the training program in London dropped out, so Alfred is off the London. Daisy rages while Molesley finally does something sensible and accepts the footman position.

And finally,  Baxter or O’Brien 2.5, despite receiving a warning from Cora that her conversation with Mary about Anna does not leave that room, goes to Thomas with the details of the conversation.

Analysis 

Edith’s pregnancy was not the big shocker that I thought it would be.  It wasn’t that hard to predict.   Charles Blake seems to be another Matthew in the early moments with Mary. Is Julian Fellows setting a pattern of Mary’s romantic partners?

Did anyone else notice the not too subtle wink wink nudge nudge to Elizabeth McGovern’s  professional past? The line about Ragtime music towards the end of the episode. Back in the day, she played Evelyn Nesbit in Ragtime.

Dowager Moment/Line Of The Week

Isobel: How you hate to be wrong.
Countess Violet: I wouldn’t know. I’m not familiar with the sensation.

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