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A Little Chaos: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

A Little Chaos (2015) movie poster A Little Chaos

US Theatrical Release: June 26, 2015 / Running Time: 113 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Alan Rickman / Writers: Alison Deegan, Alan Rickman, Jeremy Brock

Cast: Kate Winslet (Sabine de Barra), Matthias Schoenaerts (Andre Le Notre), Alan Rickman (King Louis XIV), Stanley Tucci (Philippe, Duc d'Orleans), Helen McCrory (Madame Le Notre), Steven Waddington (Thierry Duras), Jennifer Ehle (Madame De Montespan), Rupert Penry-Jones (Antoine Lauzun), Paula Paul (Princess Palatine), Danny Webb (Claude Moulin), Phyllida Law (Suzanne)

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Alan Rickman has a long way to go before we consider him more than an actor, but he has now written and directed two films.
The first, The Winter Guest, played in just a handful of theaters at the end of 1997 and beginning of 1998. Rickman's second time behind the camera comes on A Little Chaos, which played in 87 North American theaters this summer while remaining under the radar.

Chaos opens with a text screen that reads, "There is an outdoor ballroom in the garden of Versailles. In what follows, that much at least is true." That playfully establishes this romantic drama as historical fiction and frees Rickman and his two fellow screenwriters from doing justice to real people and facts.

King Louis XIV (Rickman, taking third billing) is planning to move to a new palace at Versailles. The grounds will need gardens designed, a job that several applicants would be happy to fill.

Among the hopeful landscapers is Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet), whose interview does not go well. Told by the project's overseer, the renowned, lushly-haired André Le Notre (Mattias Schoenaerts), that her resistance of order is an affront, Sabine is shown the door in just a few minutes. But André returns to her and the two's complementary visions for the ambitious grounds begin to take shape.

"A Little Chaos" crafts a forbidden romance between fictional widowed landscape designer Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) and real landscape artist André Le Notre (Mattias Schoenaerts).

André is married, but his wife (Hugo's Helen McCrory) cheats on him with gigolos. Sabine is widowed and haunted by a trauma that is teased throughout the movie. Thus, there is a love that cannot be, as Mrs. Le Notre informs her in a calm but firm confrontation. While work proceeds on the Versailles garden, King Louis is widowed. That is about the extent of plot we get over the course of nearly two hours.

Chaos gives us a few threads to follow, none to satisfaction. Based on the marketing, the forbidden romance between Sabine and André would seem to be its primary focus. But there is little to remark upon on that front until near the end of the movie and we're never particularly pushed towards wanting them together. The gardens themselves, treated to a grand reveal in the film's finale, might warrant our interest, but it doesn't, since we only get meaningless glimpses before then, apart from a storm that threatens to undo the ambitious work. That leaves us with the King, whose story is peripheral and not demanding of investment.

The best scene in the film is the one when Sabine mistakes the King, who has curiously stripped off his wig and coat outside, for a gardener. They chat casually and when Sabine realizes her foolish error, the king asks that they continue the charade, creating a kind of Roman Holiday moment. It's a human and diverting encounter, which is more than you can say about most of the film.

Were there an historical basis, A Little Chaos would be worthy of some fascination and appreciation. Without it, the entire affair seems frivolous: Rickman and friends playing 17th century dress-up with opulent sets and the occasional white horse. Someone drawn to tales involving England's throne may find it enjoyable. Everyone else will require a push to care and such care is not rewarded in any obvious way.

Without his coat and wig on, King Louis XIV (director Alan Rickman) is mistaken for a gardener by a woman in charge of designing the Versailles landscape.

This project, which is sure to lose money for the various parties that financed it, may exist most as a pleasant creative outlet for Rickman and his collaborators, which include Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Ehle in supporting roles. Nothing about the presentation demonstrates any intent for Rickman to evolve into actor-filmmaker anytime soon.
It's a different job and for someone who approaches his 70th screen acting credit since the late 1970s, you can't blame Rickman for wanting to try new things.

His co-writers perhaps approach this project quite differently: Alison Deegan has no filmography at all, save for acting in the first two series of the BBC's interminable hospital drama "Casualty" thirty years ago. Jeremy Brock, on the other hand, has been steadily employed as a writer of British features that Hollywood takes some notice of, most significantly Forest Whitaker's 2006 Oscar winner, The Last King of Scotland.

Having grossed a little over half a million dollars in North America, A Little Chaos has now come to DVD and Blu-ray + Digital HD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

A Little Chaos: Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $26.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($19.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

While there are no technical award nominations on the horizon for A Little Chaos,
the movie looks fairly nice in high definition. The 2.40:1 element is vibrant, if a touch grainy. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio gets the job done nicely, with plenty of nature sounds complementing the crisp dialogue.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

This Blu-ray is curiously and completely devoid of bonus features on-disc, lacking even trailers for other Universal and Focus titles.

The static menu places listings to the left of a slight variation on the poster/cover art.

Inside the keepcase, which is topped by a glossy slipcover featuring the same artwork, we find an insert supplying a code and direction for the UltraViolet and iTunes-compatible Digital HD that is included with your purchase.

André Le Notre (Mattias Schoenaerts) comforts Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) as the trauma teased throughout the film is finally revealed.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A Focus Features historical drama starring Kate Winslet as a trailblazer sounds like a prestige picture, but its timing accurately indicates otherwise. This fictional romance fails to win much interest with its seemingly wildly anachronous tale of garden landscaping. The nice-looking but barren Blu-ray isn't even worth a rental unless you're just that attracted to costume fare.

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Related Reviews:
New to Blu-ray: Madame BovaryBlast from the PastRichard IIIAdult BeginnersEvery Secret ThingHot Pursuit
Kate Winslet: Labor DayTitanicContagionRevolutionary RoadFinding NeverlandDivergent
Mattias Schoenaerts: Rust and BoneThe Drop | Alan Rickman: GambitGalaxy QuestSweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Stanley Tucci: Julie & JuliaThe HoaxThe TerminalJack the Giant SlayerThe Fifth EstateEasy AThe Hunger Games

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Reviewed August 13, 2015.



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