Rated: R for some sexuality and brief nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 26, 2015 Released by: Focus Features
Alan Rickman's 18th Century uneven romp does its best to get past its anachronistic insouciance to be silly, observant and sometimes involving.
A Little Chaos stars Rickman, an effortlessly alit Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts of Far From The Madding Crowd and The Drop, Helen McCrory and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1).
The politics are a little barbed and the romance giddy while Rickman's Louis XIV in 1682 is relocating his court to Versailles from the City of Lights to construct expansive gardens with budgetary constraints and a stern deadline.
Schoenaerts's Andre Le Notre (also a crooner) is retained for the ambitious project, and is under speculation when hiring Winslet's unknown, crestfallen (a dedicated and talented) Sabine de Barra to blueprint an outdoor fountain and ballroom with some devious mischief on the horizon. That's because Andre's missus Madame LeNotre (McCrory) sees a zealousness roiling in Sabine in immersing herself into her onus.
The clandestinely intricate, if darkening storyline allows for characterizations to develop in flouncy, farcical ways like Tucci's adviser Philippe, while metaphors, say, around a rose, help to establish a breezy nature, as well as subtext into Sabine. Rickman has a gaudy foppishness that elicits some chuckles, but has an moment with the brightly affective Winslet in a graceful, good-natured letting-your-hair-down way. Maybe the mindful, handsome Schoenaerts comes off least interesting in all of the talk about landscaping and social strata whence the proceedings become a mite telescoped and oddly paltry, given the presence of a verdant opportunity.
A well-crafted cinematic lark may bubble and crackle just enough for arthouse cineastes willing to endure the kind of observation and wit that Winslet dutifully embraces (and internalizes most authentically) in this dubiously, merry, all too little chaos.
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