A treatise on order and chaos, propriety and lust, hidden inside the convoluted, if a bit TV-ish, story of Meneer Chrome (Ewan McGregor), an 18th-century Dutch (or is he?) landscape gardener. Chrome has been employed to refashion and tame the herbaceous borders of bumptious self-made Thomas Smithers (Pete Postlethwaite) and in the process bankrupt him and seize his bride (Greta Scacchi), if the plans of dastardly fop James Fitzmaurice (Richard E. Grant) bear fruit. This lace-cuffed fol-de-rol of a Sunday afternoon movie is the directorial debut of Oscar-winning cameraman Philippe Rousselot and it doesn’t suffer from bad looks. It also has its odd sly, dry moment – though there are only so many times that the word “woad” can be pressed into comedic service. In looks, high concept and ambition it’s clearly in hock to The Draughtsman’s Contract and would dearly love to be a devious restoration comedy. It’s certainly got the setting and the characters, with buxom beauties, caddish gents and innocents abroad all fitting that particular bill. But in spite of a top-notch cast the script just lies there refusing to sparkle. All is not lost though, there is a nice game of “who’s going to take their clothes off first” to be played. Most of the cast have form.
© Steve Morrissey 1998