Saturday, 9 January 2016

A Little Chaos (2014)

Ooh I really wanted to like A Little Chaos...but it was not to be. In fact, I'm probably being generous with my Letterboxd rating of 3 out of 5, rating it a half a star more than it actually deserves, simply because it looks so splendid. But the sad fact of the matter is the droll Mr Rickman fails to completely rescue this horticultural period drama from the doldrums.

It's 1682, France and Kate Winslet's pioneering garden designer Sabine De Barra is the surprise choice of acclaimed landscape architect AndrĂ© Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to create an outdoor ballroom Versailles, the court of Louis XIV, played by Rickman himself. 

Reuniting with his Sense & Sensibility co-star for his second directorial effort eighteen years after The Winter Guest is a shrewd move for Rickman, who also co-writes the screenplay alongside Alison Deegan and Jeremy Brock (former original series Casualty actress and the co-creator of Casualty, obscure trivia fans!) because she positively blooms with determination here in her efforts to tame the land at Louis XIV's palace. It's great to see someone who, whilst having plenty of emotional baggage (which is slowly revealed throughout), is a confident, capable and assertive talent in a period where her gender and her class would normally rule her out of favour. She brings the titular 'little chaos', a love of the wild amidst the neat and orderly world of horticulture - a marked contrast to the work of Schoenaerts' Le Notre who is fastidious yet intrigued. Naturally romance blossoms despite Helen McCrory's spiteful intentions as the adulterous and scheming Madame Le Notre.

Almost stealing his own film is Rickman as the Sun King who shines in several scenes ,most notably his first meeting with Winslet which sees her commit the social faux pas of not realising who he is; an error he is happy to go along with. It's a wryly amusing little moment and both performers play it for all it's worth. It's these moments of 'little chaos' that actually lift the film, but otherwise this is pretty, fragrant but glacial stuff.

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