TIFF 2014 Review: “A Little Chaos” (2014)


Directed by: Alan Rickman

Written by: Alison Deegan

Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Ehle, Helen McCrory, Steven Waddington

Sabine De Barra – a free-spirited revolutionary architect is an unlikely candidate for the landscape architect in the court of Louis XIV. However she gets the job to design the grand gardens for the Palace of Versailles. Yet, getting the job is the easy part. Sabine, who suffers an unspeakable tragedy from the past – the loss of her six-year old daughter and her husband – falls in love again with her Master – the famous architect Le Notre. Le Notre’s wife is determined to stop her, even if it threatens her own husband’s career. This not only puts the design of the fountain for Louis XIV is put in jeopardy, but threatens to create a little chaos in Versailles.

The film “A Little Chaos” is a period drama set in 17th-century France. Written by Alison Deegan and directed by Alan Rickman, who has a prolific and acclaimed filmography career as an actor, and appears in such films as Sense and Sensibility (as Col. Christopher Brandon), Die Hard (as Hans Gruber), and in the Harry Potter series (as Severus Snap). Rickman also acquired a role for himself in his film as King Louis XIV and probably wanted to create another Sense and Sensibility, but I would say this attempt failed due to many reasons.

In his film, Rickman tries to recreate the aristocratic life of France in the 17th century with a little mix of love and passion between Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet, Little Children, The Reader, Titanic) and King Louis XIV’s commissioner Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts, Rust and Bone). It is a shame to see such a waste of talent by Rickman. Actor Stanley Tucci was the only one who saved the situation with his comical play as a court dandy, while

Speaking of Alison Deegan’s screenplay, I truly believe it would have looked somewhat better if she had described Le Notre and De Barra’s relationship with more enthusiasm and had used more imagination. This would have allowed both actors to create more believable characters and to better deliver their story to us – the viewers. The story of Sabine De Barra is not fully developed and sometimes misses the point. Many scenes in the film are vague and have no consequence, which makes this film totally unconvincing and hard to watch.

My main complaint about Rickman’s film and, with all due respect to Kate Winslet, is that she – as the lead, gave quite a poor and unconvincing performance. Perhaps, it would have been much easier for her if her co-star Matthias Schoenaerts demonstrated at least a little bit of feeling towards Winslet’s De Barra. For instance, in one of the scenes, where Le Notre holds Sabine’s hand, it looks like he is holding his sister’s hand, not a lover who he is willing to give up his marriage for. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Tom and Jerry on the screen is more obvious and undeniable than the one that share Winslet and Schoenaerts, which will certainly make them remembered as one of the most unconvincing couples ever to appear on the screen.

In conclusion, “A Little Chaos” is uninteresting and dull to watch, which can create a little chaos in our heads. It is really hard to believe that such an acclaimed actor and director as Alan Rickman would have ever created such a boring film. This film wastes such huge talents as Winslet and Schoenaerts, who I am sure, would have delivered a better performance with a more experienced director.

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