Sexual tension and skullduggery blossom in the magnificent gardens of the Palace of Versailles in Alan Rickman’s entertaining second directorial feature.
A Little Chaos is considerably more formal and predictable than the title suggests, but what this lusty period romp lacks in originality, it compensates with colourful performances and an uplifting bouquet of courtly intrigues.
Rickman sows the seeds of our simple enjoyment with a largely British cast led by Oscar-winner Kate Winslet as a spirited landscape gardener, who refuses to kowtow to expectations or gender stereotypes.
The director makes his mark in front of the camera as King Louis XIV, who has hired renowned landscape gardener Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to transform the grounds of Versailles into a fantasia ‘of exquisite and matchless beauty’.
It is a Herculean task, so Le Notre hires fellow landscapers to oversee different sections of the garden.
Sabine De Barra (Winslet) catches his eye. She flouts rigid form and prefers a more haphazard approach to her planting.
A Little Chaos has the requisite array of heaving bosoms, lingering glances and deceptions, accentuated by swathes of eye-catching costumes and composer Peter Gregson’s lively score
The arrival of Sabine in the court sets tongues wagging - and incurs the wrath of Andre’s jealous wife, Madame Le Notre (Helen McCrory).
Fellow labourers including Moulin (Danny Webb) rush to support Sabine in her epic undertaking and the gardener wins the approval of the king’s mistress Madame De Montespan (Jennifer Ehle) by challenging the monarch’s description of women in his court as faded and overblown roses.
A Little Chaos has the requisite array of heaving bosoms, lingering glances and deceptions, accentuated by swathes of eye-catching costumes and composer Peter Gregson’s lively score.
On-screen sexual tension between Winslet and Schoenaerts barely simmers, while McCrory vamps it up to the hilt as the wicked wench.
The resolution of the entangled plots will surprise no one, but A Little Chaos is a hardy perennial that will weather most criticism and delivers gentle sprays of laughter and romance when it counts.