A Little Chaos

 

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Alan Rickman’s second film as director, set in the court of King Louis XIV, is more conventional than chaotic, albeit with many incidental pleasures.

 

Little Chaos, A

Floral rebellion: English rose Kate Winslet

  

If one were to compare Alan Rickman’s second directorial outing to a summer’s rose, it would be of a delicate variety, with a subtle fragrance and possibly a short lifespan. There is little chaos in this fanciful conceit set at the court of King Louis XIV, other than the rebellion against convention that dictates the horticultural methodology of one Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet). Whereas the king strives for perfection in his gardens at Versailles, Sabine is willing to unsettle the status quo in order to break with the formality of the past. It is a shame, then, that for all its eloquence and gentility, A Little Chaos is reluctant to break with the conventions of the period romance. There is an inevitable love story, a predictable act of sabotage and a union of the hearts and minds of the exalted and the conscientious. Indeed, it is anything but chaotic, albeit not without its pleasures.

 

As Louis, Alan Rickman himself brings a humanity and credibility to the Sun King, while Kate Winslet anchors the film with her characteristic combo of grit and charisma. “You’re a pretty one,” notes a conniving Helen McCrory (think Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers), but our English rose is far more of a handsome creature than that. As a director, Rickman makes a number of shrewd choices, notably by relishing the silences in-between the cues of Peter Gregson’s mellifluous score and by bringing the period alive with a meticulous attention to detail. He has also surrounded himself with an excellent cast, from the man-of-the-moment Matthias Schoenaerts as the real-life André Le Nôtre (Louis’s principal gardener) and Stanley Tucci in a predictably spicy cameo. However, the film is too standard and muted an affair to retain a grip by the start of the Chelsea Flower Show on May the 19th.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Steven Waddington, Jennifer Ehle, Rupert Penry-Jones, Danny Webb, Phyllida Law, Adrian Scarborough, Angus Wright, Adam James, Adrian Schiller.

 

Dir Alan Rickman, Pro Gail Egan, Andrea Calderwood and Bertrand Faivre, Screenplay Allison Deegan, Alan Rickman and Jeremy Brock, Ph Ellen Kuras, Pro Des James Merifield, Ed Nicolas Gaster, Music Peter Gregson, Costumes Joan Bergin.

 

Artemis Films/BBC Films/Lipsync Productions/Potboiler Productions-Lionsgate.

117 mins. UK. 2014. Rel: 17 April 2015. Cert. 12A.