Title: A Little Chaos
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Alan Rickman
Music: Peter Gregson
Cinematography: Ellen Kuras
Alan Rickman’s second foray as a director – after THE WINTER GUEST (1997), reunites him with his SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995) co-star Kate Winslet almost 20 years later. The story juices up a fictitious character, Sabine de Barra (Winslet), a widow and unconventional horticulturist, to the life of landscapist maestro André Le Nôtre (Schoenaerts), who is appointed by King Louis XIV of France (Rickman) for the demanding task of designing gardens of Versailles.
Whenever a well-known thespian takes a crack at the director chair, one’s knee-jerking reaction might be, is it a one-off deal as a personal vanity project running off the rail or, in a rarer case, an endeavor truly resonates with the right vibe. Well, Rickman’s eye-friendly period offering should fortuitously befit the latter category.
The plot, conceived by Alison Deegan and co-written with Rickman and Brock, doesn’t go off the beaten track to sensationalize the scandalous affair between Sabin and André, emphasize the peer pressure and sexism nor flaunt the royal mores which someone still holds dearly out of nostalgia. On the contrary, the film stay calms, most thoroughly, a prosaic but righteously refrained emotional arc trickles in unhurriedly, owing to a moderate methodology of the main cast (Stanley Tucci’s preferentially homosexual Duke Philippe d’Orleans and Jennifer Ehle’s effervescent Madame De Montespan are the exceptions), Winslet is ever so plain, detached, sometimes even absent-minded, in channeling a woman obsessed with a past tragedy and when eventually a new romance catches up with her, she must uncover her carefully concealed wound in order to move on.
Schoenaerts is currently the go-to guy for British period outputs, he emerges even more reserved than in FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015), his André is almost too rational to carry conviction in this storybook tale (in reality, he should be around seventy during the time), all the more, he is completely devoid of any detectable emotion during the heightened two-hander between him and Madame Françoise Le Nôtre (a deliciously devious McCrory), there must be a thin fine line between unresponsiveness and strategic downplaying.
Well, the best of pick, is naturally, Mr. Rickman himself, handsomely juggles between Louis XIV’s monarchical grandeur and his more humane side with a poker face, particularly in the scenes shared with Winslet, a belated reunion between Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood, it accurately strikes the soft spot of the dewy-eyed.
A LITTLE CHAOS, where the chaos is mostly buried underneath the surface, is a quaintly small-scaled drama-romance, a thoroughly-stewed course pandered to suckers for period production who is equipped with an even-tempered heart.