To say the new period piece A Little Chaos is actually a little chaotic isn’t inaccurate. Unfortunately, though, the irony of how messy and contrived Alan Rickman’s second directorial effort is not a good thing.
A Little Chaos follows two talented artists, Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) and André Le Norte (Matthias Schoenaerts), who fall in love while designing and constructing a new garden at King Louis XIV’s palace in Versailles. Sabine’s abstract designs don’t fit into the symmetry of Andre’s orderly landscape work, but, feeling in a creative rut, he gives Sabine a chance and finds a way to merge their two styles together to create a one-of-a-kind and unique garden for the Sun King. Andre’s world of high society politics and Sabine’s sad past become huge obstacles for the both of them. It comes down to them navigating through each other’s struggles to find a way to finish the garden and ultimately be together.
The backdrop is a fairly interesting one. When can we say that we’ve see a film about two gardeners at Versailles falling in love with one another? It sounded exactly like a movie I would enjoy, especially with one of those gardeners being Kate Winslet—one of my favorite actresses ever. Winslet is good in this, and it helps that her character is the best written of the bunch. Sabine is amazingly ambitious for someone haunted by a tragic past. Yet, she manages to be very brave, speaking up for herself and other women, even to the King. I only wish Matthias Schoenaerts was as good. Some of my favorite films are Rust and Bone and Far from the Madding Crowd, in both of which Schoenaerts gives incredible performances. However, in this movie, with that awful wig on his head, Schoenaerts is wooden and uncharismatic as the romantic male lead. Combine that with the lack of chemistry between the two actors, and the romance completely falls flat.
Another thing I quite couldn’t grasp from the movie was its tone. It’s billed as more of a comedy, and there are a few substantial comic moments in the film. Still, most of those moments were not very funny, well-delivered, or consistent with the rest of the movie. That is mostly due to what I am sure is a disjointed script. To be fair, there is delight taken from the supporting performances. Alan Rickman plays King Louis in an odd, but nicely comic way. I found myself enjoying the scenes between Winslet and him very much. Another highlight is Stanley Tucci as Philippe, the King’s flamboyant and insanely charismatic younger brother. Also of note are Helen McCrory, who plays André’s devious wife, and Jennifer Ehle, the King’s kind and hopeful mistress.
Instead of deeply caring for the characters, I was just waiting to see how that garden would turn out (It turned out quite nicely). A Little Chaos could’ve been fun and original, but it was predictable, unevenly paced, and sort of struggle to get through. With all of the great talent behind it, it is hard not to expect a better film. A stronger script and more defined tone would have made A Little Chaos much more entertaining and worth recommending.
A Little Chaos is now playing in select theaters. It is also available to rent on Video On Demand.