HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: A Little Chaos
HTS Overall Score:70
I wouldn’t expect a film about gardening to be this ostentatious. When most of us (at least in the Southwest) think of gardening, we think of our mothers or father’s elbow deep in mud and much, trying to get their prize roses or chrysanthemums to bloom. Or growing tomatoes and peppers in the spring. However, centuries ago in France, the gardener to the King of France was someone of high esteem, and like many artists, paid a handsome sum of money to keep the king pleased with his surroundings. Alan Rickman returns to the director’s chair for the first time in over 17 years, going back to his love of period pieces and European dramas in “A Little Chaos”. The plotline can sometimes be a little formulaic, but the entertainment level is certainly high enough, as Rickman infuses a little bit of girl power and finding one’s place in life into an era that certainly was lite on both.
King Louis the XIV (played by director Alan Rickman) has commissioned Andre Le Notre, the famous French gardener, to design and build his famous gardens of Versailles. Swamped with the task of creating such a momentous piece of work for the King, Andre decides to hire an apprentice to lighten the load. Being the foremost landscaping expert in all of France, he has the pick of the kingdom, with people begging to be let on as his apprentices. Instead of going with the most obvious choice, Andre chooses one Madame Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet), France’s only female landscaper, to be his assistant based upon her unorthodox designs. Andre is the king of order, basing his works upon strict rules and design strategies that have pleased people around the nation. Madame De Barra is his polar opposite, engaging in what can only be considered Chaos Theory. Doing things against the norm, and changing things just to see what they do.
Given the task of creating the outdoor ballroom of Versailles, Madame De Barra gets to work immediately, and soon finds out just how hard it is to be a landscaper amongst the bourgeois elite. She soon falls under the spell of Andre himself and the two tentatively form an emotional attachment, although unspoken until the very end of the second act. This alone draws fiery resistance from certain people, who do their best to destroy the work that Sabine is trying to do out of jealousy. Mingle in the fact that Sabine herself is hiding a dreadful secret, one that threatens to overwhelm her at every step and hinder her project, as well as her personal life.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50985[/img]Fans of the period piece romance/drama may definitely notice some familiar steps here. The costumes are glorious, the accents not so superb, and the frantic love between rich person and a nobody. Rickman feels a bit rusty behind the camera at times, as he blends multiple little sub plots together, but his passion for the period drama shows through and the end result is quite enjoyable. Ironically, the romance between Andre and Sabine is the least interesting part of the film, even though it has been touted as the driving factor. Sabine herself is a complex woman, and actually Rickman does a fantastic job of entwining female empowerment into the story. Interestingly enough he never does it in an over the top way, but rather subtly and firmly mixes in little scenes where Sabine gets the upper hand in an obviously male dominated situation. She’s a sweet character who brings sunshine into the lives of those she touches, even if her own is shrouded in darkness.
The plotlines can be a bit too many, as Rickman sometimes stumbles with his priorities in the film. We have a romantic sub plot between Andre and Sabine, an aging Louis the XIV who desperately wants to be loved by someone again, a jealous wife, and of course the all-important design of the outdoor ballroom. Some of them work, especially the interactions between Louis and Sabine, and some of them don’t, like the romantic liaison between the two landscapers. That romance is supposedly the glue that brings the story together, but I found that the Louis/Sabine interactions as well as the creation of the ballroom to be much more fascinating. The romance was kind of a mild irritation that you want to go away so you can “get to the good stuff”. There is a wonderful little scene with Sabine going to a local gardener to find some new perennials for the ballroom only to run into an unrecognized Louis the XIV who is trying to get away from it all, so to speak. Their little dialog is easily the highlight of the film, that and the subsequent speech about a rose in the castle. Winslet does a great job as she always does in these types of films, while Matthias is mainly a flat character, both acting wise and character wise. The scene stealer of the movie though is Stanley Tucci, hamming it up in such a gloriously aristocratic way that you love every second he's on screen. My only wish was that he was in more of the movie.
Rated R for Some Brief Sexuality and Nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50993[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray of “A Little Chaos” is a great looking encode, with bright lavish colors and a set design that would make any period film fanatic just salivate at. Fine detail is excellent in close up shots, showing off every line and wrinkle on the elaborate dress coats of the French, and even the creases and lines on Winslet’s beautiful face. Long, wide angle shots tend to lose a bit of detail and get soft, but not annoyingly so, just enough to notice the difference. The lush French countryside is resplendent with every form of color imaginable, with TONS of green grass, blue waters and the purples and pinks and other colors of the fantastic flowers of the region. As with many period films, the white levels are boosted just a tad to give a hazy, dreamy look and that sometimes effects the black levels, but we don’t really have THAT high of a boost going on to any detriment.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=51001[/img]The single 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless audio track on the disc does the job quite nicely, with a definitely front loaded mix that has enough life in it to surprise the listener at times. Dialog is mixed well in the front channel, with some decent panning effects during more active moments. The surrounds aren’t exactly used a whole lot, but when they are used, the inclusion is definitely noted. The rushing sounds of the water through the sluice gates and the pounding rain before the flood come through in the back with pinpoint precision, and the sounds of the Louvre have some wonderful directional effects that keep those back channels busy. LFE is mild, but certainly there, especially in the afore mentioned water sluice scene, but mainly it is used to add some mild weight to the more dramatic moments. A solid track that does everything asked of it with gusto.
“A Little Chaos” happens to be just that. Rickman stumbles a few times throughout the film, making it feel just a bit chaotic, but the overall film itself is still highly enjoyable. I grew up watching European period pieces as a child so I have a love of the genre, and felt that Rickman’s passion for the style shone through despite the stumblings. The disc itself looks quite good, with solid video and impressive audio. My only complaint with the Blu-ray package is the obvious lack of ANY extras. Still recommended for a fun watch.
Starring: Stanley Tucci, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman
Directed by: Alan Rickman
Written by: Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 113 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 4th 2015
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