Alan Rickman's A LITTLE CHAOS
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Don’t come to this movie expecting a typical costume drama about a royal romance in late 17th century France. A LITTLE CHAOS is a restrained and intelligent character study set against the backdrop of the design and construction of one of Versailles’ more interesting outdoor garden landscapes, an “outdoor ballroom” set in the woods with a mini stadium on one side and a beautiful fountain cascade on the other.
The characters and acting are great here. Kate Winslet is the landscape designer with some interesting and somewhat daring (for the time) theories about design. She is hired by Matthias Schoenaerts’ character to manage a side project for the under-construction Versailles gardens. Alan Rickman is resplendent as the king who alternates between gravitas and humanity. Stanley Tucci makes an indelible impression as a foppish courtier who is part of the King’s inner circle.
What is most welcome about this film are its craft, restraint, attention to detail, and emotional sophistication. Yes, we have a “forbidden romance” that blooms between the two main characters, but there is much more to this movie.
Some scenes are beautiful and touching in how they play out, evidence I think of director Rickman’s intelligence and sensitivity:
- The gardener comes upon the recently widowed king as he solitarily broods in the Royal plant nursery. She and he then have a gentle discussion about plants, flowers, and pears. The king does not forget.
- The gardener is summoned to court for the first time and is initially put off by the cutthroat intrigues and jealousies. She is horrified when she is guided into a side parlor reserved for the ladies of the court. Unexpectedly the scene evolves from initial capriciousness to profound emotion as the ladies share memories of dead children and loved ones.
- The gardener is presented formally to the King and his court in an elaborate formal ceremony. What ensues is a gentle and thoughtful conversation between her and the King about roses, beauty, and life.
To top it all off, photography, music, and sets are beautiful. I recommend this movie. It is not perfect, but it is a very agreeable and adult story with a beautiful script. One cannot help but be saddened that the late Rickman will no longer be gracing us with such splendid directorial gifts.
Review copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald