It’s been seventeen years since esteemed actor Alan Rickman directed a feature. He returns with a lavish period drama, A Little Chaos, that’s a far cry from his acclaimed indie effort, The Winter Guest.

“Crams a predictable love story into a societal pressure-cooker”

Attempting both gentle romance and a meditation on grief, Rickman crams a predictable love story about a married landscape gardener and his female protégé into a societal pressure-cooker: the royal court of King Louis XIV. Sexually liberated but emotionally bottled-up, the King’s (Alan Rickman) royal circle offers the potential to magnify love and seduction. In reality, the setting provides little more than inevitable romance fodder from gossip, to jealous spouses and a throwaway revenge plot, hammering audiences over the head with its promiscuous, morally dubious alternate reality. In spite of the dazzling costumery and sets, Rickman’s French court is blunt and laboured.

Commissioned by principal gardener André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to build an outdoor ballroom at the palace of Versailles, Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) reacts to the King’s elite entourage with jumpy apprehension, but this cast have all been better elsewhere. Rickman fails to rein in the escalating melodrama and De Barra’s emotional unravelling is painfully overwrought.
A Little Chaos Alan Rickman Kate Winslet

A Little Chaos is a film of compounded inconsistency. It’s frustrating as Rickman proves himself more than capable of tapping into nuance as both actor and director. His King Louis quietly confides a personal loss in a poignant scene that briefly redeems A Little Chaos before eventually jabbing us with the film’s sweeping, squandered potential.

 

VERDICT: ★ ★ 2/5

 

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 117 minutes
UK release date: 17 April 2015
US release date: 26 June 2015

Review first printed in Ashfield & Mansfield Chad

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