When Alan Rickman (CBGB) decided to tackle the court of the Sun King as director, writer, and actor, he came to it with a huge body of experience and a deep bench of friends to help make it a reality. He is born to play these types of aristocrats and he completely understands the absurdity and largess of this particular king’s court. I wish he also understood story structure a little more. but I’ll come back to that.
Kate Winslet (Divergent) does a wonderful job as an independent woman of vision who is haunted by her past. It is, perhaps, a bit too focused on that haunting, making her dour and seemingly flighty even as she clearly has built a career for herself. Her particular love interest is played well by Martin Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), who’s quiet sensibility anchors a lot of the plot.
There are a number of smaller roles that fill out the cast with great moments including Danny Webb (Humans), Steven Waddington (The Imitation Game), Helen McCrory (Woman in Black 2), and Stanley Tucci (Some Velvet Morning). But none really have an important role to play, though you keep thinking they will.
While beautiful to behold, and containing excellent performances, the story is muddled, leading off with the impression that it will be a wry look at the court and its denizens, but quickly becoming something a bit more serious around women in court and a complicated romance. In the end, it is simply so ill-structured as to be quite forgettable as a movie, even if it entertains for a brief time. If you want to see it, see it for the costume confection and string of moments and don’t wonder too much what the point is. Unlike the design’s of Winslet’s character, there is no discernible pattern, simply a colorful path through to the end.