A Little Chaos: Film Review
Cast: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Matthias Schoenaerts, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Steven Waddington
Director: Alan Rickman
It's off to the palace of Versailles for this the second directorial outing for Alan Rickman.
It's Paris, 1687 and Winslet plays Sabine de Barra, a landscape gardener who's on the look out for her next commission. So, with the weight of expectation not in her favour, she attends an interview for a commission to build in the palace of Versailles and in an ironic twist for the time, manages to convince the man in charge Andre Le Notre (Rust and Bone star Schoenaerts) that she's the right man for the job.
But her appointment causes all manner of problems; from the work force who won't take her seriously to the back and forth between her and Le Notre, as well as wrestling with her demons, it looks as if De Barra is on a hiding to nothing.
Winslet is the rock and foundations of the somewhat disjointed A Little Chaos.
Her underplaying of De Barra stands in stark contrast to Rickman's relatively frenzied zig-zagging direction. The film's constantly being derailed in terms of its flow by the stop-start stutterings of the story and De Barra's flashbacks (pointlessly inserted in from time to time in way that over-eggs rather than nourishing the whole piece).
There's a plodding pace to the film too, which Rickman fails to fully grasp and exert some kind of control of; moments of nuance from Winslet are counter-balanced with moments of a relatively emotionless Le Notre and end up cancelling each other out. (In another world, the Le Notre role of brooding would have been played by Viggo Mortensen).
There are some moments of humanity and heart where a levity of touch proves a welcome tonic to proceedings - nowhere more so than when Rickman's King Louis is incognito in a garden and De Barra mistakes him for a seller rather than royalty. It's this single scene that breathes some life, passion and emotion into the proceedings and sees this drama bloom and blossom. Equally, a veritable cameo from Stanley Tucci as the King's brother in law only serves to highlight what exactly the film is missing in one single scene.
One major problem is the romance between the two leads which suddenly feels abruptly shoe-horned in and doesn't inject any of the gravity or passion that's clearly hinted at throughout, leading to a conclusion and romance that feels forced and unnatural.
All in all, A Little Chaos could have benefited from a little more order; Rickman has moments that work well but they're suffused with too much that doesn't quite work as well as it should. A touch more pruning at the script stages could have meant this flower would have smelt a little better and blossomed for a little longer.