UK Release Date: 17th April 2015
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Alan Rickman
Writer: Alan Rickman, Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan
Starring: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Jennifer Ehle
Synopsis: A gardener with an unusual take on the profession is hired to work in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles.
Glossy period drama on the big screen often has a distinctly old-fashioned feel to it. It is that sense of traditionalism, though, that gives A Little Chaos its considerable charm. Alan Rickman’s second feature as director is a sweetly British tale set in 17th century Paris.
Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) is employed by André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to bring her non-conformist gardening style to Versailles, producing a fountain for King Louis XIV (Rickman). As Sabine grows closer to André, she draws the ire of his wife Françoise (Helen McCrory), but makes a big impression with the King’s brother (Stanley Tucci).
Much like the garden at its centre, A Little Chaos takes something elegant, but formulaic, and shapes it into something just different enough to be charming. The film moves at a stately pace, remaining just light and frothy enough to avoid becoming another bland period piece.
| "This abundance of chaos? This is your Eden?"
Kate Winslet makes a solid fist of her leading role. She performed much of the scenes whilst pregnant, with both herself and Rickman committed to getting the film made. Her performance feels authentic, with the mud beneath her fingernails lacking the designer quality that plagued Reese Witherspoon’s performance in Wild.
Rickman, who spends much of the film working from the director’s chair, elevates A Little Chaos whenever he appears on screen. He is a performer of immense gravitas, which fits seamlessly in amidst the froth of the rest of the film. A tender scene he shares with Winslet, in which neither is aware of the other’s elevated status, is the film’s understated highlight.
Unfortunately, bland romantic leading man extraordinaire Matthias Schoenaerts is there to drag it all down with another leaden performance of unimaginably invisible charisma. It’s a real saving grace when Stanley Tucci appears, arriving in a whirlwind of brilliantly campy noise and bluster.
| "You are no one where everybody is someone."
With a mixed bag of performances, A Little Chaos is left to get by on the efficiency of the filmmaking and the charm running through its lovingly orthodox structure. It’s not a film that’s going to blow minds, and you’ll definitely predict the ending, but it’s an enjoyable few hours in the company of a director with a real eye for class.
Pop or Poop?
Let down by a couple of lacklustre performances and a slightly bloated running time, A Little Chaos retains a quintessentially British sweetness that makes it an enjoyable watch.
Winslet and Rickman have a palpable love for the story, but are let down by Schoenaerts’ lack of charisma and energy.
Thankfully, Stanley Tucci has more than enough energy for everyone.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.