This review is somewhat delayed in coming as I saw this film last weekend but as an indication of things to come I couldn’t pull together the enthusiasm to turn on my laptop. The film is co-written, directed by and co-stars the great Alan Rickman. This film marks only the second time he has sat in the directors chair, the last time being back in 1997 with The Winter Guest. The film brings together Academy Award winning Kate Winslet and man of the moment Matthias Schoenaerts.
In A Little Chaos Schoenaerts plays one of the most famous gardeners of the 17th century, Andre Le Notre, who has so much on his plate with the gardens at the new palace at Versailles that he needs help with a new water-based feature. A number of the top names in France come forward but it is a lesser known Sabine De Barra (Winslet) who catches his eye, in more ways than one, who wins the job. The title of the movie comes from the fact she is developing a style that challenges the formal gardens of the day.
To give you a sense of the feel of the film think back to the now classic 1995 BBC television series, Pride and Prejudice, in as far as it focuses on the lives of the middle and upper classes. Working Joe doesn’t get much of a look in and most of the characters are presented in a positive light include King Louis XIV. While my knowledge of 17th century France isn’t great I don’t remember Louis XIV being particularly beloved of the people but in this film he is a wise father who longs for a sense of normality. As you would expect the acting is spot on and the film is professionally stuck together. The high points of the film are the arrival of Stanley Tucci’s flamboyant character, Duc d’Orleans, and anytime Mr Rickman opens his mouth.
Sadly there is very little else going on. My biggest criticism of the film is that I don’t understand why it was made. I couldn’t tell what its underlying message was, what story was it trying to tell? A Little Chaos fails to capture a sense of time and place and it feels terribly English not helped by the fact it was all filmed around stately homes and palaces in this country. The soundtrack is like water and does nothing to contribute to the mood and oh dear I’m starting to moan a bit now.
This film no doubt begin life with very worthy intentions and probably looked great on paper, especially when you look at the main cast that was assembled. Sadly it hasn’t translated onto the screen and it is a little bit tedious at times. My rating 2/5. Apologies Mr Rickman.