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A Little Chaos – Film review

January 17, 2016

In the week that Alan Rickman died, it seems fitting to pay tribute to him, as probably millions of others are doing, by re-watching his films. For a costume drama that’s also one of Rickman’s best roles, of course I should be commenting on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) in which he plays the thrillingly dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham but Rickman directed and shared writing credits as well as had a cameo role in A Little Chaos (2014), and it’s quite recent so I’m going to start my movie watching with this.


…And maybe wish I hadn’t. A Little Chaos stars Kate Winslet and Matthias Schoenaerts as French landscape designers Sabine du Barra and André Le Notre who are working on Louis XIV (Alan Rickman)’s new gardens in his Palace of Versailles. As a female in a male world, of course she struggles and as someone who has never been at court before, of course she makes the odd mistake.

A Little Chaos – a little slight

Yet everybody is charmed by her, including the man who was also interviewed for her job, who steps in to help her when her team of peasant gardeners sneeringly desert her, the ladies at court who coo over her, and the king, who she meets on an off day and whose soul she soothes. And, of course, André, who has an open marriage and would quite like to get into bed with her. The only person who doesn’t adore her is André’s wife, who despite the open marriage is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it type, and would prefer it if she could f*ck young men of the court in carriages but not have the embarrassment of her husband bedding a mere gardener.

She plots to destroy Sabine’s career, by flooding the garden she’s building. Of course it just brings the nascent couple closer together. Even without the panto acting, we know that Madame Le Notre (Helen McCrory) is an evil type as she dresses in very dark, very tight, highly embellished dresses all day every day.

Impractical fashions

In A Little Chaos Sabine, of course, dresses in modest greys and pleasant plaids, accessorised by practical leather satchels, belts and what can only be described as a bum bag. She is, of course corseted (but strangely in a completely different style to M. Le Notre) and though she slings a leather apron round her skirt and wears gloves to protect her hands when gardening, her very prominent bosom seems sadly unprotected from the ravages of all those brambles.

A Little Chaos – but not much

But what about the garden itself? Sabine is brought in to provide “ A Little Chaos ” in the orderly gardens of Versaille. Perhaps we should expect some rambling roses or a sweet hidden glade? Perhaps some random wild flower planting? No, she builds some pebble dashed terraces with fountains. Not impressed.


A Little Chaos is an OK film, it’s not good. Matthias Schoenaerts is nice eye candy, and Alan Rickman is perfect as the jaded monarch, with his sighs and sly eye rolls.The scene with a roomful of pastel arrayed women at the court like a cluster of bon bons is pretty. Costume wise, I appreciated the way that Philippe, Duc d’Orleans (Stanley Tucci)’s pale purple stockings went with his violet breeches which nicely set of his giant amethyst ring, but wasn’t dressing him all in lavender and then emphasising the fact that he is gay a bit de trop? Overall, a bit hmm.