A Little Chaos (12A)



Romance (2014)
117mins UK

Starring: Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jennifer Ehle
Director: Alan Rickman
Writer(s): Alison Deegan, Alan Rickman, Jeremy Brock
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

King Louis XIV hires renowned landscape gardener Andre Le Notre to transform the grounds of Versailles into a fantasia "of exquisite and matchless beauty". It is a Herculean task, so Le Notre hires fellow landscapers to oversee different sections of the garden. Sabine De Barra catches his eye. She flouts rigid form and prefers a more haphazard approach to her planting. The arrival of Sabine in the court sets tongues wagging and incurs the wrath of Andre's jealous wife, Madame Le Notre.

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LondonNet Film Review
A Little Chaos (12A)

Sexual tension and skulduggery blossom in the magnificent gardens of the Palace of Versailles in Alan Rickman's entertaining second directorial feature. A Little Chaos is considerably more formal and predictable than the title suggests, but what this lusty period romp lacks in originality, it compensates with colourful performances and an uplifting bouquet of courtly intrigues. Rickman sows the seeds of our simple enjoyment with a largely British cast led by Oscar-winner Kate Winslet as a spirited landscape gardener, who refuses to kowtow to expectations or gender stereotypes...

A Little Chaos. Copyright: Alex Bailey/Lionsgate Films. All Rights Reserved. Caption: Kate Winslet stars in the period drama A Little Chaos, directed by Alan Rickman. Photo: Alex Bailey. Copyright: Lionsgate Films. All Rights Reserved.She is nestled between handsome Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts as her green-fingered love interest and Stanley Tucci in a typically scene-stealing comic role as the effete Duc d'Orleans, who is a stranger to restrained sophistication and "speaks from the opposite end of the fashion scale". Some of Britain's finest stately homes, estates and mansions including Blenheim Palace, Cliveden, Hampton Court Palace and Waddesdon Manor double handsomely for late 17th-century France. Rickman's garden is exceedingly well turned out.

The director makes his mark in front of the camera as King Louis XIV, who has hired renowned landscape gardener Andre Le Notre (Schoenaerts) to transform the grounds of Versailles into a fantasia "of exquisite and matchless beauty". It is a Herculean task, so Le Notre hires fellow landscapers to oversee different sections of the garden. Sabine De Barra (Winslet) catches his eye. She flouts rigid form and prefers a more haphazard approach to her planting. The arrival of Sabine in the court sets tongues wagging - "You are no one where everybody is someone," a chaperone tells her - and incurs the wrath of Andre's jealous wife, Madame Le Notre (Helen McCrory). Fellow labourers including Moulin (Danny Webb) rush to support Sabine in her epic undertaking and the gardener wins the approval of the king's mistress Madame De Montespan (Jennifer Ehle) by challenging the monarch's description of women in his court as faded and overblown roses. "That fate awaits all roses, sire," Sabine responds confidently.

A Little Chaos has the requisite array of heaving bosoms, lingering glances and deceptions, accentuated by swathes of eye-catching costumes and composer Peter Gregson's lively score. Winslet isn't stretched in the lead role but she brings grit and determination to her trendsetter. On-screen sexual tension with Schoenaerts barely simmers, while McCrory vamps it up to the hilt as the wicked wench who envies Sabine's ability to impress powerful men with her intellect. Rickman downplays his beleaguered monarch and enjoys one truly delightful scene with Winslet, in which he casts off the king's finery to mourn lost love. The resolution of the entangled plots will surprise no one, but A Little Chaos is a hardy perennial that will weather most criticism and delivers gentle sprays of laughter and romance when it counts.

- Jo Planter

A Little Chaos. Copyright: Alex Bailey/Lionsgate Films. All Rights Reserved. Caption: Kate Winslet stars in the period drama A Little Chaos, directed by Alan Rickman. Photo: Alex Bailey. Copyright: Lionsgate Films. All Rights Reserved.


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