Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Helen McCrory
Directed by Alan Rickman
The design for a garden at the Palace of Versailles is in the hands of a woman whose landscaping results are often asymmetrical.
Madame De Barra’s (Winslet) idea of a garden fit for a king was a little worrisome for the master gardener, André Le Notre (Schoenaerts). Yet, De Barra’s creative design has a hidden order to it which appeals to Le Notre. The two fight their discreet desire for another while working on the project while De Barra’s reputation rises in the court of King Louis XIV (Rickman).
Jealousy plays a role as it usually does in any romance, and an unknown antagonist to De Barra makes multiple attempts to ruin the garden. De Barra already has to overcome her lower class status to prove herself a capable gardener while grieving for the loss of her husband and daughter.
Winslet played a strong, female character and it shows. De Barra would have to be strong because out of the all the candidates, she was the one chosen to work on the king’s garden. Her grievances make her empathetic to the king and her boldness interests an audience with him. Another side to De Barra is her infatuation with Le Notre. The romance is very subtle because she is still grieving. It’s almost too subtle because when something does happen it feels like there wasn’t enough build up. There’s no “rooting” for her and Le Notre to get together because for the most part, it’s a movie about making a section of the garden.
Unfortunately, despite the strong writing, the plot fell weak towards the end of the movie. De Barra’s confrontation with the death of her husband and daughter was over too quickly and not enough time was dedicated to get into her feelings of it. There was some questionable actions by her husband that needed to be explored. The ending wasn’t rushed but the romance that blossomed between De Barra and Le Notre wasn’t romantic enough when that’s what the movie is being sold on.
A Little Chaos told an interesting story about the creation of (part of) the garden at Versailles because no one often thinks about the people who created it. For a period piece, it was a beautiful movie. Between the scenery and the composition, it felt like a classic story but the weak plot wasn’t enough to support it.