There are numerous success stories about actors stepping into the director’s chair. Whether it is Clint Eastwood’s later career or Ben Affleck’s current rise, so many great cinematic artists make it look all too easy. This is so much so that it is quite surprising when an actor’s attempt at directing doesn’t work. So it was really surprising to see an actor as talented as Alan Rickman have his directorial efforts on his latest film fall so flat. A Little Chaos comes across as an extremely dull period piece with a cast full of great actors gone mostly to waste.
A Little Chaos follows the creation of the Gardens of Versailles as Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts), who was appointed for the job by the King himself (Alan Rickman doing multiple duties on this film), as he selects a woman (Kate Winslet) to help him carry out the unique design of the gardens.
With an actor behind the helm, cinematic visual beauty is not one of the first things you would expect from this film. However, this film does not have an ounce of beauty to it and that’s a problem when the film itself is about the search for beauty. It would be easy to compare the production values of this film to a TV show, however, most period TV shows on today not only have better production values than this film but also do a lot better job at making the most out of what they have.
It also doesn’t help that the film has to deal with a script (which Alan Rickman also co-writes) that is constantly struggling to stay out of melodrama. Melodrama can be good when used properly but when it is bordering on self-parody, like it is here, it is not good at all. A slow motion flashback scene in the middle of this film is a disastrous display of how melodrama can tank a film.
Fortunately, Rickman gets a lot out of his two lead performances even if he just seems to be sleep walking through his own performance as King Louis. Kate Winslet seems to be back in her element after a couple of recent performances in which she seemed like she was in it just for the money (The Divergent Series films come instantly to mind) and Matthias Schoenaerts continues a very sly integration into the minds of American audiences. He just seems so natural in his transition to English speaking films.
A couple of solid performances aren’t enough to save a film as dull as A Little Chaos.