WRITTEN BY: Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan, Alan Rickman
DIRECTED BY: Alan Rickman
STARRING: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Helen McCrory
RATING: 1.5 stars
Set in France in 1682, landscape gardener Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) is assigned the task of constructing a section of the gardens at Versailles. She is working under master landscaper Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) and is soon thrust into the centre of the court of King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman).
This costume drama is unfortunately very slow, predictable and unsatisfying. I do not have a green thumb, but even if you do, you are unlikely to find much enjoyment in the drawn-out discussions about plants and landscaping. The love story is also obvious and uninteresting. Only two scenes stand-out as being mildly fascinating – the unusual meeting between the king and Sabine, and the moment when a group of women at court secretly discuss the deaths of loved ones, which is a topic banned at court. Despite Rickman's best attempts as a co-writer and director to capture the beauty of the flora and provide some insight into life at court under the king, the film fails to engage on any level. In fact, I very nearly walked out. The only reason I stayed was because I was hoping for some originality in the second hour, but it was not to be.
Winslet certainly makes a rare misstep with this role and she has very little chemistry with Schoenaerts, who remains wooden throughout. Rickman plays a pivotal character, but he too is bland. Helen McCrory plays Andre's cheating wife who is wise to the sparks flying between her husband and Sabine, but she is otherwise an under-developed character. Stanley Tucci's small part is a poor attempt at providing some light between the drama. His talents are totally wasted.
If you are interested in Versailles, just go there. It is an amazing palace and the gardens are exquisite. This film is a disservice to its history and beauty.