Film review of the drama about a female gardener at the court of Louis XIV, directed by and starring Alan Rickman and co-starring Kate Winslet and Matthias Schoenaerts. Scroll to the bottom to leave any comments.
Director: Alan Rickman. BBC Films/Lionsgate et al. (12)
Cast & credits
Producers: Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan, Bertrand Faivre.
Writers: Jeremy Brock, Alison Degan, Alan Rickman.
Camera: Ellen Kuras.
Music: Peter Gregson.
Sets: James Merifield.
Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Steven Waddington, Jennifer Ehle, Danny Webb.
Sabine De Barra (Winslet) is a noted, rural gardener who likes to inject ‘a little chaos’ into her garden oasis. When King Louis XIV (Rickman) commissions the most lavish gardens to complement his soon to be completed palace at Versaille, his chief gardener Andre Le Notre (Schoenaerts) chooses her to construct an amphitheatre. They fall in love despite her lower social status and his vicious, unfaithful wife (McCrory).
Firstly, an admission. And one I never thought, after nearly 10 years reviewing films, I would ever have to make. I walked out of a screening before the film finished.
In fact, I voted with my feet and let them lead me out after only 60 minutes of A Little Chaos.
It was a wholly new experience for me and I wondered how the rest of the audience (and there were quite a few in attendance) would react. Loud and outright disdain at this renegade act? Hushed criticism with fingers pointing at me for daring to upset the cinematic status quo?
No, nothing. Not so much as a sharp intake of breath. All quiet regarding my own ‘little cinematic chaos’.
They may have agreed or disagreed with me, but more likely they were struck dumb by the awesomely dull and laboured film they were viewing.
A Little Chaos has, on paper at least, everything going for it. A top-notch cast (including man of the moment Schoenaerts who is popping up in just about every big drama), a big name actor wielding the megaphone and an interesting story that includes elements of gender equality, the changing roles of women in society and a smattering of Versaille sex, politics and intrigue.
In other words, the sort of stuff that any director would snaffle up, run with and turn into a lovely, romantic visual feast.
That Rickman was not able to accomplish this might be put down to his relative inexperience behind the camera, having last helmed a movie in 1997, the acclaimed The Winter Guest.
Two decades is a long gap between projects but the languid, tranquil pace of his former film has infected Rickman’s brain in the intervening years to the point where his directing style has become comatose.
He isn’t helped by a script that strains so hard to come up with the requisite witty ‘bon mots’ required in such a period drama; the writer fails to heed the lesson in scriptwriting that less can often result in more. Some conversations are strung out to the point of tedium.
Even Winslet appears to be sleep-walking through a role that she should nail from the first syllable to the last. (However, she does get admirably mucky wading through ankle deep mud).
Slow is too nondescript a word to adequately describe A Little Chaos and I would happily urge anyone to give this the go-by, but there are lights in this tunnel. Namely Tucci as a bisexual Prince who appears to have wafted in from another (presumably more fun) film set to inject some much needed sass and McRory who sparkles with life. It’s a shame the love story wasn’t between them.
Perhaps one day I will summon up the urge to complete watching this film, but not today as I’m already feeling tired and there are things to be done.
See the official A Little Chaos trailer on Youtube.