Director: Justin Chadwick
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dan DeHaan, Christoph Waltz, Holliday Grainger, Jack O'Connell, Zach Galifianakis, Tom Hollander, Kevin McKidd, Matthew Morrison, Dame Judi Dench
Runtime: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes and Nudity)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 31 August 2017
Synopsis: Set in 17th-century Amsterdam, TULIP FEVER follows a married woman (Alicia Vikander) who begins a passionate affair with an artist (Dane DeHaan) hired to paint her portrait. The lovers gamble on the booming market for tulip bulbs as a way to raise money to run away together.
Tulip Fever is a tale of lust, greed and nudity, plenty of those but little of the fascinating tulip trading business in which the title implies.
It’s 1600s Amsterdam, a time where tulips are highly priced and traded. They called it tulip mania and as mentioned earlier, this is not a movie to delve into it anyway. A young orphan, Sophia (Alicia Vikander) is arranged to be married to a rich but elderly businessman, Cornelis (Christoph Waltz) who has everything in the world except a heir to carry on his name and inherit his fortunes. When Cornelis engaged a down-and-out painter, Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan) to paint a portrait of them, Sophia begins an adulterous affair with Jan which leads to unforeseeable, disastrous consequences.
Even though it’s marketed as a tragic triangle affair, Tulip Fever is also crammed with other subplots and obviously trimmed to a friendlier runtime making it an inconsequential movie to watch. There’s Maria (Holliday Grainger), Sophia’s faithful servant who is having an affair with the local fishmonger, William (Jack O’ Connell) and serving as the movie’s narrator as well. And there’s Dame Judi Dench as an abbess of a church who dispensed marriage advice such as “love, honor and obey” in her free time and also happens to have a day job tending tulips in her vast garden.
The supposedly Oscar bait production also boasts Zach Galifianakis as a drunken fool, a friend of Jan and Cara Delevingne who has moved on to bigger things in a fleeting role as a hooker. You can’t really fault these two miscast actors because Tulip Fever itself is a slow, uninvolving soap opera that mistook a simple racy tale as rich drama. Vikander despite her acclaimed acting in Ex Machina and The Danish Girl is absolute a bore to watch opposite DeHaan. Maybe pairing DiCapirio opposite Kate Winslet might deliver better chemistry instead of Vikander and DeHaan. Or maybe it’s the Weinstein effect that turned off Vikander. We shall leave it to your own interpretation.
The script adapted by screenwriter Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare In Love, Anna Karenina) based upon the novel by Deborah Moggach is tremendously streamlined that an elaborate (the highlight of the movie by the way) plot hatched by Sophia, Maria and a shady doctor to hide a fake pregnancy and to elope with Jan later on is told in such sketchy, hurried manner that audiences probably have no idea how Cornelis, the bright cunning businessman is convinced by the entire conspiracy in the first place.
While the entire production is shot in the UK instead of the Netherlands, the movie boasts enough lush sets, elaborate period costumes and blooming tulips to please the eyes. Danish cinematographer Eigil Bryld (Becoming Jane) accordingly attempts to emulate the depth and compositions of paintings in his shot and the results are flawless. The in-demand Danny Elfman (Justice League) contributes a pleasant yet not particularly memorable score.
From stars and directors dropping out to a delayed release, Tulip Fever is a troubled project right from the start. Justin Chadwick who has better luck with another period drama back in 2008, The Other Boleyn Girl perhaps needs better material or in this case, a better producer in his next outing.
(The steamy sex and skin can’t slavage a dying tulip)
Review by Linus Tee