Winslet rises above ‘ Chaos’

Los Angeles Times - - MOVIES - — Sheri L i nden

The de­pend­ably com­pelling Kate Winslet tan­gles with vines and branches in “A Lit­tle Chaos,” get­ting dirt on her 17th cen­tury frocks and un­der her nails. As the fic­tional land­scape de­signer Sabine de Barra, hired to cre­ate the Rock­work Grove am­phithe­ater at Ver­sailles, she stands in de­fi­ance of so­cial and aes­thetic con­ven­tion even while the film it­self never bursts its staid cos­tume- drama seams.

Di­rected by Alan Rick­man from a screen­play cred­ited to him, Ali­son Dee­gan and Jeremy Brock, the fea­ture f inds Louis XIV fast­track­ing the con­struc­tion of the new palace, set­ting lofty and vague stan­dards for its gar­dens. Rick­man plays the Sun King with a guarded, ten­der world- weari­ness, and he shares the movie’s strong­est scene with Winslet. An in­ti­mate en­counter tinged with melan­choly and hu­mor, it be­gins when Sabine mis­takes the de- wigged French monarch for a gar­dener.

By con­trast, her in­ter­ac­tions with An­dré Le Nôtre, the king’s master land­scape ar­chi­tect, are fris­son- free, although the col­leagues are meant to be fall­ing in love. Evinc­ing less per­son­al­ity than Sabine’s plants, Bel­gian ac­tor Matthias Schoe­naerts ap­pears ready for his ro­mance- novel close- up but brings a blank dis­com­fort to his por­trayal of the his­tor­i­cal fig­ure.

The story comes to life only fit­fully, even with — or per­haps be­cause of — its court in­trigue and sup­port­ing char­ac­ters both hiss­able ( He­len McCrory as An­dré’s wife) and f lam­boy­ant ( Stan­ley Tucci as the king’s bi­sex­ual brother). But there are strik­ing glimpses of grit, muck and volup­tuous beauty ( the great Ellen Kuras han­dled the cin­e­matog­ra­phy) and, above all, there’s Winslet. While the na­ture- ver­sus- or­der po­lar­ity that Sabine and An­dré em­body is as stud­ied as the film’s heavy over­lay of mod­ern sen­si­bil­ity, Sabine would have inspired a meta­phys­i­cal poet or two. “A Lit­tle Chaos.” MPAA rat­ing: R for sex­u­al­ity, brief nu­dity. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 53 min­utes. Play­ing: In lim­ited re­lease.

Ra­dius- TWC

BENI­CIO DEL TORO mes­mer­izes as the tit­u­lar drug lord in “Es­co­bar: Par­adise Lost,” the di­rect­ing de­but of ac­tor An­drea di Ste­fano.

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