A Little Chaos (2014)

Comedy, Drama, Romance
Thomas Allam, Alan Rickman, Hope Hancock, Isabella Steinbarth
Two talented landscape artists become romantically entangled while building a garden in King Louis XIV's palace at Versailles.
Stylish and well-acted without ever living up to its dramatic potential, A Little Chaos is shouldered by the impressive efforts of a talented cast.
  • Focus Features Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 26 Jun 2015 Released:
  • 03 Aug 2015 DVD Release:
  • $0.4M Box office:
  • Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan, Alan Rickman Writer:
  • Alan Rickman Director:
  • N/A Website:


Went to the movie with low expectations, thanks to some of the comments having written here. What I met was something spectacular. Very cleverly organized script had become a a most beautifully shot film in the hands of Alan Rickman. A strongly developing romance, beautifully acted scenes from the very beginning to the end, obviously a result of the touches by the director. Rickman should direct more films. Very passionately recommended to those who love details in words, minimalism in acting. To me, it is a collection piece. Also, The star of the film, Kate Winslet, once again, shows why she is of a great talent. Every moment she is on the screen, her powerful acting capacity flows like a very big river that nothing can possibly stop.
THE DUCHESS moves to Versailles9/10
Belying its title, this is a charmingly well-ordered 'chamber-piece' movie about the creation of Louis XIV's spectacular grounds at Versailles. Landscape architect Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) recruits - a surprise in 17th-century society - a woman to design one of the garden's water features. Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) is a widow; Andre is married to a heartless slut (Helen McCrory); so we can expect something more than potting to be happening in the potting shed before the gardens are finished! There's a lovely scene when Sabine finds King Louis (Alan Rickman) alone and unwigged on a bench and mistakes him for the chief gardener.

I worried that A LITTLE CHAOS might be like one of Peter Greenaway's movies, a triumph of style over substance, but it's got almost as much substance as an Oscar Wilde adaptation. There's no attempt to "Frenchify" the language in the style of 'Allo 'Allo: everyone speaks accentless English. Alan Rickman (who also directed) plays the king in the grand style of Lady Bracknell, and Winslet is perfectly cast as a woman of substance and quiet wisdom. Belgium's Monsieur Schoenaerts is having a busy year and although this is role is similar to the one he had in SUITE FRANCAISE he seems more comfortable in it this time. Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Ehle play the top dogs/bitches in His Majesty's court and I'd like to have seen more of them both.

OK this movie is a bit overdone and artificial (like the gardens at Versailles), but the cast are believable and lovable, and the story delivers comedy, romance and intrigue. If you liked THE DUCHESS, you will love this.
A fantasy, but a lovely one9/10
A Little Chaos (2014) is a British film co-written, starring, and directed by Alan Rickman. Rickman plays the French King Louis XIV, Matthias Schoenaerts plays the landscape architect Andre Le Notre, and Kate Winslet plays Sabine De Barra. Madame Like Le Notre, De Barra is also a landscape architect. She's hired by Le Notre to help with the magnificent gardens at Versailles. However, this isn't a movie about gardens or gardening. (In fact, Winslet says that, unlike her character, she's not really a gardener.)

The film is really about human emotions--love, hate, happiness, and sadness. The gardens are just the plot device that brings together all of the main characters in one place at one time.

Matthias Schoenaerts is excellent in this movie, as he was in "Far from the Madding Crowd." However, as Farmer Oak he had to be intelligent but grounded in the necessities of his situation. In "A Little Chaos," he has to have superior intelligence that soars with creative ideas and solutions.

Rickman is a fine actor. His perpetual sneer in the Harry Potter movies has been replaced almost by benevolence in this film. From what we know of the historical "Sun King," he wasn't exactly the kindly, gentle monarch that is portrayed in "A Little Chaos.

Kate Winslet is a wonderful actor, and she looks right for the role. Of course, she's beautiful, but her beauty is distinct, intelligent, and individual--she doesn't look like just another cookie-cutter movie star.

The plot is very tightly constricted--almost all of it takes place at the court in Versailles, which is a huge, but claustrophobic, setting. Everyone intrigues with everyone else, assignations are made, vows are made and betrayed, and no one can trust anyone.

What's interesting to me is that I was caught up in this atmosphere. I wanted to see De Barra complete her project. I couldn't understand why the king wouldn't put more money into the gardens at Versailles.

When I thought about it, I realized there isn't a single poor, miserable, hungry person shown in the film. The only non-elite characters we see are interchangeable servants, grooms, and garden assistants. They may not have a happy life, but at least they were paid and fed.

We know historically that the French poor suffered terrible hardships during this time. It was with taxes torn from them that Louis XIV paid for his gardens at Versailles. However, as was probably true in real life in 17th Century France, the nobles were protected and insulated from the people and their suffering. That's the way this film is structure --we see the politics at court, and we see the garden moving forward, but we don't see the squalor of ordinary life. There's no remedy for this. Your only choice as a viewer is to take it or leave it. You can't change it.

We saw this movie at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. It will work somewhat better on the large screen, but it will work well enough on DVD. I recommend it, despite its drawbacks.

As I write this review, the movie has a horrendous 6.3 rating. It's interesting that women gave it a 6.7, while men gave it a 6.0. Nothing about the film suggested to me that it would be much more popular among woman than among men.

Although this isn't a superb movie, I don't think a rating of 6.3 does justice to it. I think it's worth seeing, and I would recommend it.
A little divertissement5/10
At a time when "F&F7" is dominating box office takings, this could hardly be a more different offering: not so much fast and furious as slow and sedate. It is pitching for a more refined, but inevitably much smaller, audience and its target demographic will find it a qualified success. Modestly enjoyable but unexceptional.

Set at the court of the French King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) in Versailles (but wholly shot at some splendid British locations), this a well-intentioned, mildly feminist work that presents a woman landscape designer - the fictional Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) - in a world (like most) dominated by men such as the real-life Andree Le Notre (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts). Not only does she cause a little chaos in the gardens, but in the court where, in a surprising couple of scenes, she discovers and exposes the sexism and ageism towards the female aristocracy.

At one level, this is Rickman's film: it is only the second he has directed, he contributed to the script, and he steals certain scenes as the Sun King. However, for me, it was owned by the ever-winsome Winslet. She is somebody one can imagine getting her hands dirty in gardens and standing up for her sex; she is one of the finest British actress of her generation; and I have never seen her in a role where she did not bring something a little special. But, at the end of the day, "A Little Chaos" has too little going on and too small a budget to be more than an pleasant antidote to the crash-bang- wallop of too many other movies.
A Gardening Fantasy7/10
It was the perfect film to take my elderly mother to, given that we both enjoy gardening holidays in France.

The story is uncomplicated - in a time when gardens were the fashion statement of the rich, the French king wanted a statement to silence the globe. Matthias Schoenaerts' character is given this task which is mammoth given the bogland to be used and he hires Kate Winslet's character for one element of the garden. They fancy each other.

Alan Rickman has a few key scenes but Stanley Tucci steals the show entirely. Costumes and setting are lavish, as they should be.

I cannot comment on the historical accuracy but my immediate thought was 'How does she garden with the corset on when I wear nothing under my t-shirt?' As a gardener, nothing is ever done (weeding, composting, planting etc.) but this project did appear to have a somewhat finite end, which is a fantasy in itself.

More historical dramas with a gardening theme I say!