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A LITTLE CHAOS
October 18, 2014
The setting is 17th Century France. King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) has commissioned work to be completed for the gardens that continue to be preserved at the Palace of Versailles. The honour falls upon renowned architect André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to deliver, enlisting the assistance of gardener Sabine (Kate Winslet) to create The Ballroom garden, while finding love and acceptance along the predictable way.
Despite some great scenes – Stanley Tucci in particular has an outstanding time – A Little Chaos unfortunately meanders along from cliché to cliché. Kate Winslet carries this film on her shoulders, bringing honesty and respect to her character, Sabine, displaying the passion of this green-thumbed gardener whilst also hinting at the sadness underneath. Sabine’s talents bring her to the attention of André, delighting and infuriating him with her ‘chaotic’ designs; together they wander through upper class France.
Most of the cast have a British accent which is negligible except for when one phrase is spoken in French and is then subsequently explained, taking you out of the movie altogether. Sabine is shocked to learn of the affairs that regularly take place in high society and consoles André when she learns his wife is having an affair, though he seems to take it in his stride. The pair do have a decent chemistry but it’s lazily written, hashed together and paced badly so it is devoid of any genuine realism in their growing relationship.
Directed by Alan Rickman in his second credit behind the camera since The Winter Guest (1997), he does bring out some great performances and memorable scenes but also a few equally hokey ones. For instance Rickman’s final scene is very tongue-in-cheek. There is however a problem with pacing that holds A Little Chaos back from being fully enjoyable and the unnecessarily long running time doesn’t help.
One character who saves the film as one to look out for is Stanley Tucci as the King’s flamboyant brother Duke Phillipe. Entering the film aware of his own importance, he steals every scene he’s in. Philippe grows an interest in Sabine’s life as a commoner and along with Antoine (Silk‘s Rupert Penry-jones), takes her under his wing. Intimidated by the upper classes, Sabine’s awe at their behavior behind closed doors is sweet, coming to terms with her own losses in the common pain that everyone hides.
A Little Chaos is in need of a re-edit, but its stand-out performances from Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman truly save it from being forgettable. It still may be somebody’s cup of tea but it certainly wasn’t mine. A dull film with loud characters, this is a mixed bag that doesn’t work well, which is a shame considering the talent involved.
A Little Chaos is released in UK cinemas on April 17th