“A Little Chaos” (2014)
Sabine De Barre (Kate Winslet) has been summoned by Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts), the famous landscape architect to an interview. Le Notre has been commissioned by the French King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) to make Versailles a one-of-a-kind testament to the beauty of France, and he is interviewing landscape artists to fulfill his vision.
Le Notre is in a bad mood, and it’s made worse when looking down on the grounds, he sees Sabine move one of his plants to a different position in a display. He almost instantly dismisses her, first grilling her about her ideas of landscaping, many of which seem to be in opposition to his vast body of work. She finds solace later working on a private garden in the country, making a beautiful display out of practically nothing. As she recovers that night from her hard work, she gets a late-night visitor, Le Notre. Le Notre has reconsidered her proposals and wants to know why she moved his plant in the garden. She soon realizes as their conversation goes on that he is there to hire her. They are about to embark on a magical journey of creativity and possibly love.
Alan Rickman, besides starring as the King, Louis XIV himself, directs this beautiful movie about the love a woman has for the land and the man who slowly falls in love with her. It’s not every day that the main character of a movie is a 16th-century widow who is trying to hold her own in what at the time was considered a man’s profession. Rickman gives us a film that makes this possibility believable due to Winslet and her portrayal of Sabine. Sabine has a secret, something that has happened in her past. We see glimpses of her past life in Sabine’s flashbacks and dreams, but even more revealing is that she hears a child’s voice out of nowhere or sees a small child quickly run by. This is all exposed slowly throughout the film, and creating the tension that we need for the story to work.
The world that Rickman presents to us isn’t always beautiful. There are the numerous court scandals, as woman and men, try to position themselves as close to the king as possible. Court intrigue, sabotage and weather all create problems for Sabine and her vision to create an incredible part of the garden. It’s a fascinating look at life inside the court, as one man, the King, can make or break a person just because of a whim.
Rickman has assembled a stunning group of actors with Stanley Tucci headlining the supporting cast, playing the King’s brother, Philippe, Duc d”Orleans. Tucci commands the screen as he wears outlandish outfits and complains about everything, from the weather to the size of his hats. Alan Rickman plays the King with zeal, stealing several scenes from the rest of the cast with a performance fit for a king. Matthias Schoenaerts portrays Le Notre as a man who has a single-minded purpose, driven to create his masterpiece for his King. He has great chemistry with Kate Winslet, as their attraction grows throughout the film.
It’s Winslet that makes this movie watchable. She portrays Sabine as a strong woman who isn’t afraid of hard work, but is afraid to confront her past or let love in again. It’s a remarkable performance and makes the script, which, now and then, gets a little too bogged down in the court intrigue, fascinating and at times, moving.
If you are a lover of costume dramas and court intrigue, this film is for you. It’s not your typical love story, but it is an enjoyable piece made better because of the performances of Tucci and Winslet. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively in Atlanta at the Plaza Theatre
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