The beauty of watching a soapy period piece as escapist “corset porn” is that its shortcomings can be ignored as long as the costumes and production design are sumptuous enough — or, as a trump card, the immortal Kate Winslet is the headliner.
Reunited with her Sense and Sensibility co-star Alan Rickman (who also directs), Winslet outclasses this tidily simplistic, low-stakes historical fiction as the widowed Sabine de Barra, a landscape artist hired to build an outdoor garden ballroom at Versailles for the court of Louis XIV (Rickman). But it’s real-life master landscaper and openly married love interest André Le Nôtre (a Fabio-locked Matthias Schoenaerts) who is staking his reputation on this rare female junior hire, a socially vulnerable commoner among the condescending whispers of the aristocracy.
Appropriately hunky but neutered of the brute sexuality he exhibited in Bullhead and Rust and Bone, Schoenaerts and his lack of bodice-busting tension with Winslet mirrors the film’s transparent, often anachronistic inauthenticity: He’s a modern Belgian using a regal British accent to play seventeenth-century French.
There’s barely any characterization, let alone the advertised chaos, but there is an easily resolved fit of jealousy and sabotage, a guilt-racked conscience revealed in traumatic flashback, and too many flower metaphors.
A Little Chaos
Directed by Alan Rickman
Opens June 26, AMC Empire 25