A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Little Chaos takes place in 17th-century France during the construction of Versailles, and focuses on Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet), a grieving widow who's tapped to build part of the palace's famous gardens and must deal with men who are certain they're superior to any female landscape architect. There are brief glimpses of naked breasts and butts, and love scenes show people moving and moaning, vigorously. A few sequences include social drinking, and a terrible carriage accident kills two people, including a child, though the bodies aren't shown.
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What's the story?
Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) is a widowed landscaper in 17th-century France who lands the coveted assignment of designing a garden at the palace of Versailles, even though her vision conflicts with the artistic ideals of chief landscape architect Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts). He fancies order, insisting on bending nature to his will, while Sabine prefers to infuse her designs with A LITTLE CHAOS. While Andre is ultimately willing to take a chance on this brash upstart, having a woman take charge of such an important job -- with such a radical plan -- is more than a little disruptive to the the insular and narrow-minded court that surrounds the king.
Is it any good?
Winslet is a fine actress who can bring almost any character to life, and here, viewers get a real sense of Sabine's passions -- and the deeply buried despair that stems from a tragic loss. But she's a big presence in a very small picture. The story of building one special garden at Versailles isn't especially epic, and it's hard to infuse heft into what's essentially a little story.
Alan Rickman, who also directed, plays King Louis XIV, the man at the center of everyone's orbit in the claustrophobic French court. He's fun to watch (though he doesn't appear very often) as a monarch who both revels in his position and is tired of being the constant focus of attention. The other main character is Schoenaerts' Andre Le Notre, the man in charge of building all the gardens. He's far too reserved, controlled, stiff, and distant, which makes his appeal for Sabine puzzling. A Little Chaos is beautiful to watch, in parts, since it's set in one of the world's most beautiful gardens, but as a whole, it's too constricted to be interesting to most viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Sabine's artistic vision. How did it differ from the norms of the era, and how did that make it difficult for her to realize her masterpiece? What does her struggle -- and eventual success -- teach viewers?
Is Sabine a role model? How accurate do you think the movie's take on her experiences is? Why might filmmakers choose to tweak history? How could you find out more about her -- and 17th-century France -- if you wanted to?
What role does sex play in the movie? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- In theaters: June 26, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: August 4, 2015
- Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci
- Director: Alan Rickman
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality and brief nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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