I listened and looked but still did not quite understand how the relationship worked. In its infancy there was a given intimacy as a comfortable space was created to allow for growth. The amount of attention given was at a high level so that everything that would help keep things fresh had an opportunity to do so. For years I was a bystander as I listened to friends talk about their gardens. The relationship they had with their gardens provided them with a pleasure that made little sense to me. Sitting in a friend’s backyard watching them prune and weed patches of open land that were thriving with vibrant colors only perplexed me. Yet after all these years something has happened inside of me. I have been visualizing seeing mounds of ornamental grasses with feathered tops out my back windows, watching how breezes would tickle the tops and cause the grass to sway. Besides the tall grasses there was a row of plants in different stages of colorful growth going down the width of my house. So I decided to dig in and bought 10 plants that I planted in the same way as in my visualizations. And wouldn’t you know it, everything I saw my friends do to their plants I am now doing to mine. Little uninvited sprouts of green invaders keep trying to circle my plants but I find myself stopping by each plant everyday to violently remove these interlopers. I have a new appreciation for what it takes to create a beautiful garden. King Louis XIV, played by Alan Rickman (Harry Potter franchise, Nobel Son), wanted and expected the gardens around his palace in Versailles to be something that no one had every seen anywhere in the world. The responsibility befell Andre Le Norte, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From the Madding Crowd, Rust and Bone), who was taking a big risk in hiring landscape artist Sabine De Barra, played by Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland, Labor Day). This romantic drama had as you can imagine a beautiful look to it. I thought the story’s premise was wonderful and loved the idea that some of the things portrayed in this film could have a basis of truth in them. All the actors were so believable and really commanded the viewer’s attention. I had to hand it to Alan, not only was the role a perfect fit for him but he was also the director and one of the writers for this period piece. Maybe he took on a bit much because the script lacked a deeper level of drama, along with keeping the characters two-dimensional. On the plus side I liked the feminist angle the writers were trying to convey. This picture about the gardens of Versailles needed a little more pruning.
2 1/2 stars
“Let them eat cake” is a famous quote that we attribute to Marie Antoinette. Actually there is no record of her really uttering those words, but the quote has come to symbolize the disconnect between the wealthy upper class and the impoverished lower class. Many of us were taught about the French Revolution in our high school European history class. This movie dealt with the final days of Louis XVI’s monarchy. What fascinated me about this wonderful film was how it was seen through the eyes of Marie Antoinette’s reader. This was way before there were electronic readers and books on tape. Sidonie Laborde, played by Lea Seydoux (Midnight in Paris, Robin Hood) was the servant assigned to read to Marie Antoinette, played by Diane Kruger (Unknown, Inglourious Basterds). I found the concept of a reader a bit odd, but I so enjoyed the way this version of the monarchy’s downfall unfolded. Diane was beautiful in this role as the remarkable queen holed up in the opulent Versailles castle, carrying out her daily desires, keeping her female confidant close by; while word of an uprising in Paris spread throughout the gossiping servants. With tension building among the members of the royal court, chaos sputtered into life through the castle. We had the beauty of Versailles on display, the consistent pacing and fine acting which made this film a fresh version of French history. No readers will be allowed into the theater; you will have to do your own reading, since the film was done in French with English subtitles.