A Little Chaos

Alan Rickman was born to play the Sun King—or any king, really—but neither he nor the blue-chip cast he’s recruited in his capacity as director can rescue this muddled historical drama about Louis XIV’s construction of the gardens at Versailles. The central character is a fictional designer (Kate Winslet) hired by hunky landscape architect Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to help create the Salle de Bal, a striking outdoor ballroom that features a cascading waterfall; her site-specific naturalism clashes with his orderly classicism, but he learns to appreciate her spunk and, of course, they wind up in a clinch. (In real life Notre was pushing 70 when he began working on the ballroom in 1682.) Screenwriters Alison Deegan and Jeremy Brock embellish this stilted girl-power narrative with some scattered observations about court life and, when the story threatens to peter out, give the Winslet character a buried trauma that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Rickman takes a screenwriting credit, and dabbing their lips with silk handkerchiefs are Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Ehle.