This is one film that could have done with a bit more chaos
A fiery female gardener finds herself working on the construction of the gardens of Versailles and becomes romantically entangled with the master gardener.I’ll be the first to admit, a storyline following a well-remembered king’s gardeners during Louis XIV’s reign in 17th century France was a bit of a surprise. Certainly, it’s a new angle, but would it live up to the grandeur we’ve come to expect from period dramas? The costuming in A Little Chaos was really lovely, and the scenes set in the Sun King’s living quarters were equally well presented, creating a real sense of grandeur.Known as a vain and lavish man, Louis XIV would have expected only the finest, something I found very downplayed in Rickman’s version. He and Sabine (Kate Winslet) have some very real and appreciated moments of honesty during the film, which I'd also find odd of the man himself. Then again, the humanity Rickman’s Louis possesses in the film was a nice touch added to a historically self-absorbed monarch.
Kate Winslet’s Madame Sabine de Barra remotely reminded me of her role in Labor Day. Haunted by memories of her past, Sabine develops flashbacks during the entirety of the film, causing her to “check out” briefly at various points until she can re-engage in the world. However, in this role, Winslet’s character manages to pour her emotions into her work, with lovely, if a little chaotic, results. Matthias Schoenaerts, a Belgian actor gaining steam, was handsome and appropriately dreamy for his role as Andre Le Notre, if a little reserved for the illustrious French court at the time.
Le Notre's slowly evolving relationship with Sabine was sweet and founded on mutual respect and admiration, each for the other. She describes him as being “the most complete person” she knows. Likewise, he finds that her “heart beats fiercely,” whilst his only “ticks”. I had been expecting the love triangle between Andre, his wife, and Sabine to be more dramatic, and on that count I was disappointed. Whilst the story progressed, the climax was more of a leisurely hill than a true peak. This did make for easy watching, however, and there was no real danger of emotions being too battered upon viewing.
Whilst the story progressed, the climax was more of a leisurely hill than a true peak.
Again, I was surprised by the lack of wide shots of Versailles, whether it was the building itself or the surrounding gardens. That addition may have made the film seem bigger, more dramatic and more akin to the real Versailles. I also enjoyed but was slightly confused by the apparent court ladies’ group therapy sessions. Accepting Sabine into society so quickly seemed almost false or too good to be true. However, the heart-to-heart openness of the ladies was touching and served as a reminder that tragedy leaves no one untouched in life.
Being a film about a wildly extravagant garden, I expected to see more flowers and, frankly, more chaos... but what we received instead was a demure film about a demure love story. I wasn’t extraordinarily impressed by A Little Chaos, but neither was it bad. It was just a nice little film. Is there anything wrong with the combination of easy viewing, attractive yet real actors, a decent pinch of emotion and a story set in the past? No there isn't and, as usual, I'm in.
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