A Little Chaos
In 1682 at the court of Louis XIV (Alan Rickman, who also directed), a widowed landscape artist (Kate Winslet) is hired by the king's master gardener (Matthias Schoenaerts) to build an outdoor ballroom in the gardens at Versailles. The script by Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan and Rickman tells us that romantic sparks fly between Winslet and Schoenaerts' characters, that his philandering wife (Helen McCrory) wreaks vengeance by sabotaging their project and that Winslet harbors a dark, painful secret. But none of this is allowed to ruffle the movie's placid surface; when McCrory raises her voice slightly above a calm conversational tone, it echoes like the wail of an enraged banshee. For the rest of its plodding length, the movie wallows in its rich costumes, sumptuous wigs and stately, dignified repartee. J.L.