A Little Chaos (Movie 2015)

4 Kernels

Stars: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Matthias Schoenaerts

Unfortunately, A Little Chaos has limited distribution.  It was only showing in one theater where I live in downtown.  I could have taken public transit and walked five blocks to get to the venue but kept putting it off.  Good that I did, because A Little Chaos is currently streaming for $6.99 on Amazon with a run time of 1:53 minutes.

It’s an interesting and unique story about a woman named Sabine, who has a gift for gardening. Yes, she has a quaint little backyard of flowers and trees, but her real talent is that of a landscape artist. She applies for the opportunity to work in the gardens of Versailles.

After obtaining the position, she is charged by the head architect, Andre (played by Matthias Schoenaerts who was just in Far From the Madding Crowd), to work on a special project that the two eventually design together.  The fact that Sabine was a woman of great talent did not mean that her task was an easy one, but it was eventually successful.

However, underneath Sabine is a woman of great sadness. She is a widow and has also lost her daughter of six years of age. The reason for her family’s passing isn’t revealed until the end of the movie. How it occurs is heartbreaking, so I won’t spoil that part in case you decide to watch the movie.

Of course, Andre, who is unhappily married to another woman, who possesses less than a stellar character, falls in love with Sabine. At first she resists because of her sorrow from the past, but eventually discovers solace and comfort in his arms.

Kate Winslet does the movie great charm. Her portrayal of Sabine is nothing but brilliant as all her movies. There is one particular scene that literally brought me to tears where she is among a group of women from the King’s court. The ladies sit together and talk about what ladies talk about, but the conversation turns toward whether she is married and has children. Sabine, of course, can barely choke out the truth, and it is then that the majority of the woman in the room relay to her their sorrow of lost children of their own due to smallpox or other tragedies. It is so touching, I could barely keep from crying. Sabine is deeply moved when she realizes that she is not the only woman carrying such a deep burden of grief.

As the movie continues, you are made aware of her gracious character, wisdom, and kindness to others that eventually lead her to a road of healing. Yes, the movie is about the gorgeous gardens of Versailles, but it also much more. The story is rich with sidelines about others who are close to the King as well.

Alan Rickman plays Louis, but he also directs the movie.  As beautifully touching as the story is at times, you may find it a bit slow in movement. There is construction of her portion of the garden, her interaction with the King and his court, her blossoming love for Andre, that all move toward the end at a leisurely pace.  Some may like it — some may not.  I wanted to push it a bit myself but later scenes redeemed whatever discomfort I felt while waiting for the story to unfold.

You will see many characters played by British actors that you will recognize – Rupert Penry-Jones (Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion); Steven Waddington (who played the Duke of Buckingham in The Tudors);  Adrian Scarborough (who has done his share of British television roles including Midsomer Murders); Stanely Tucci (who has been in plenty of movie roles that you can remember); and many other well-known faces.  What you may find a bit unsettling is the majority of the cast lacking French accents from British and American actors, however, there are a few women who do have one.

Nevertheless, the costumes are quite stunning as well as the scenery and sets. The production was filmed in England at nine locations (click here to see where), including Hampton Court, which I immediately recognized the exterior and interior.

If you’re looking for a touching, but not spectacular period movie, you may want to check this one out.

The Holiday (2006) Christmas Movie Reviews

5 Kernels

It’s that time of the year when I watch my favorite movies for the holidays. This is the first of a few reviews I’ll be posting before December 25.

Right at the top of my list is “The Holiday,” staring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black.  Though I never saw the movie in the theaters when it was released, I stumbled across it a few years later on DVD and fell in love.

Every Christmas season, I dust it off, pop the corn, and watch an endearing tale of lonely singles navigating the world trying to find love. The movie contains some iconic lines that only miserable singles can relate to, but also other lines that will stay with you for years to come.

Let me preface by saying that Cameron Diaz has never been a favorite of mine on screen.  This is probably the only movie I’ve ever watched where I fell in love with her portrayal of a character named Amanda Woods.  Amanda is a rich woman with a business of making movie trailers, who has recently broken up with her cheating boyfriend.  Out of the blue, she decides to take a vacation and get away for Christmas.

To plan her trip, she sits down and puts in a search term in Google about where to travel.  Since she wants to go where they speak English, she picks England.  Her search takes her from Los Angeles to a small cottage in Surrey, England, where she does a house swap arrangement with another pathetic, brokenhearted single played by Kate Winslet, whose character is Iris Simpkins. I was surprised to find out that there are services where you can swap houses with people from around the world.  It’s a scary prospect, as far as I’m concern, but works perfectly for the movie.

From the onset, the single humor is spot on.  As they correspond via instant chat on computer making arrangements, a few iconic lines are spoken:

Iris: [reading aloud what she types to Amanda during live chat discussing home exchange] I’m Iris, by the way. I’m very normal, neat-freak, healthy, non-smoker, single…

[stops, fighting back tears; then adds to herself]
Iris: Hate my horrible life!

Amanda: I’m Amanda.

[to herself]

Amanda: Loner, loser and complicated wreck!

They switch homes and their lives are drastically changed forever.

Poor Iris is the typical woman caught up in unrequited love with a man she adores, who is now engaged to marry another person. Iris is really pathetic, and Kate plays a normal, down-to-earth woman with endearing qualities as well.  She arrives at Amanda’s huge home in LA and is overwhelmed by its size and beauty.  She meets Miles, played by Jack Black. He writes music and loves a woman who continually breaks his heart.  Jack Black, by the way, has never been one of my favorites either.  This is the first serious role I’ve seen him play and actually enjoyed.

Iris and Miles have much in common and spend time together helping each other get over their pathetic love interests.  Another interesting character that comes into Iris’ life is one of Amanda’s neighbors, Arthur Abbott (played by Eli Wallach who recently passed away). They strike up an unusual friendship.  Arthur helps Iris find her self worth again, and she helps him in many ways.

Kate Winslet gets to deliver some fantastic lines that are frankly haunting.  Here is a favorite:

Iris: I suppose I think about love more than anyone really should. I am constantly amazed by its sheer power to alter and define our lives. It was Shakespeare who also said “love is blind.” Now that is something I know to be true. For some quite inexplicably, love fades; for others love is simply lost. But then of course love can also be found, even if just for the night. And then, there’s another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. Its called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert.

In England, Amanda meets Iris’ brother, Graham, played by the handsome Jude Law.  Gosh, he’s awful cute in this movie.  Amanda is a different sort of woman.  She doesn’t cry and has trouble falling in love. Because her parents were divorced early in her life, Amanda is cynical when it comes to relationships. She is convinced that she cannot love like others. Graham enters her life and everything changes, but he has two secrets that Amanda knows nothing about.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll keep that little spoiler under lock and key.  All I will say is that it a very touching and endearing.

I think why I love this movie so much is because it’s emotionally moving in many ways, the dialogue is great, it’s filled with truths and profound thoughts about love lost, love gained, and love wasted.  Among the seriousness of it, too, is the humor and lighthearted scenes that make you sniffle.

The movie is set during Christmas time, but it’s not heavily Christmas oriented. If you haven’t seen The Holiday, I highly recommend it. Now streaming on Amazon for a whopping $2.99.

The Reader (Movie 2008)

Stars: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, and David Kross 

Last night I streamed free on Amazon Prime, The Reader. It was a movie that I had not seen at the theater when it was released in 2008. I really like Kate Winslet, so I thought I would watch it to see why she won an Oscar for her performance in this movie.
First off, I will admit I did not read any reviews or synopsis of the movie beforehand. I hit play in total ignorance. Yes, it’s a bit shocking that a woman, who was probably in her early 30’s, had an affair with a 15-year old boy. However, had I turned it off, like so many other one-star reviewers, claiming it was nothing more than a sickly and vile movie about pedophilia, I would have missed an intriguing story that turned out to be quite a surprise.
I will give a few insights as to the story, without spoiling the ending. It starts out with Ralph Fiennes, who plays the adult version of Michael Berg reminiscing about the past. Set in 1958 post-WWII Germany, it tells the story of a teenager who is helped by Hanna Schmidt, a young woman, when he becomes ill with Scarlet Fever. After his recovery, he returns to thank her, but to his surprise she seduces him and an affair ensues.
Hanna is a woman that at first you really know nothing about, other than she enjoys two things with Michael – sex and the fact that he reads books to her during his visits. Strange as it seems,they fall in love until one day she mysteriously disappears without a word and breaks his heart.
Fast forward to Michael’s days at university as he studies to be a lawyer. His professor takes the class to sit in on the the war crime trials. To his surprise, Hanna is a defendant, along with a group of other women, for her participation as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. Day after day he attends the hearings, listening to the crimes she committed during the war and then realizes something about Hanna that no one else knows. The fact could lessen her sentence, but Michael cannot reconcile the horrors of her actions in helping to kill the Jews. What he knows, he keeps silent, and her sentence is life in prison compared to a paltry four years for the other women involved in the same crimes.
The movie is one of conscience as the younger generation deals with the guilt of the older generation and the crimes committed to humanity in WWII. Michael takes a sobering visit to Auschwitz to see for himself where she worked as a guard. Hurt and brooding for the woman he once loved, he makes the choice not to help her avoid her punishment regardless of the secret she has held from everyone, which Hanna refuses to admit to even at her trial. Her shame regarding that one fact is greater than the shame of being a guard during the war and her participation as a murderer.
In the end, the story reverts to Michael as an adult and the guilt and feelings he has wrestled with throughout his life regarding Hanna. The movie is an interesting and thought-provoking story that reaches far more than the risque first half of an older woman having sex with an under-aged boy. David Kross looks very young in the part, but the sexually explicit scenes were not filmed until he turned 18 years of age.
If you’re looking for a sobering movie regarding love, morality, secrets, and consequences of one’s actions, this is a good flick. It touches the lives of those who participated and those families who were victims.  Kate’s achievement in winning an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and many other awards for her portrayal of Hanna are well deserved.

Interesting post note on this subject, I did a Google search wondering how long the war crime trials lasted due to the timing in this story.  To my surprise, I stumbled across an article in the Independent from September 2013 regarding Germany’s continued prosecution.  Here is a link to a story about former guards at concentration camps, stating that arrest warrants would be issued for, “40 men and six women suspected of having worked as guards at Auschwitz.” Some of these men and women are now in their 90’s, but the trials continue. Here is the link to the article:

Nazi murder trial: Germany in one last push to bring remaining war criminals to justice before they die.