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Contrary to the more disillusioned critics, I think this was a good movie. Tulip Fever is a cautionary tale of love and greed, paralleling an adulterous affair with the tulip buying craze of the 17th century.
The main problem is that neither theme was developed fully enough despite having nearly 2 hours to do it. The affair and the flower fad both end disastrously but a little more attention to why both started was ignored, leaving the viewer suddenly immersed in a whirlwind of ever increasing drama without fully understanding why.
The film is beautifully shot. Every scene looks like a painting from a Dutch master. The characters are interesting and the use of a maid's voiceover as narrator was compelling and interesting. But then the entanglements begin.
The main characters, Sophia and her older, rich husband seem very happy. He has taken her from a convent and lavished her with wealth. However, the problem of infertility of Sophia's side is soon revealed but her husband doesn't mind and says so to different characters. Sophia seems content to, despite the rather routine ritual of lovemaking, which doesn't seem that awful either. We never quite figure out why she was so bored. Anyway, one day her husband hires a young stallion of an artist. Then the infatuation and love affair begin.
While Sophia is deep into her affair, her maid has also fallen in love with a local fishmonger. They plan to marry and he gets involved with tulip speculation. He sells a prize bulb for a huge sum. On his way to break the good news to the maid, he sees Sophia having relations with her lover but thinks its his fiancee, the maid. Upset, he ends up at a tavern where he is robbed and immediately conscripted into the Navy. Meanwhile, his beloved has no idea where he went.
Once she realizes she is pregnant, she blackmails Sophia who decides to pass off the maid's kid as her own, then fake her own death so she can sail away with her artist boyfriend. Sound crazy enough? The artist also gets into tulip speculation and makes a huge profit. Unfortunately, his drunken friend thinks the valuable tulip is an onion and eats it, bankrupting his friend.
That's a lot to take in. Even more than Judi Dench as a pipe smoking, wise ass Mother Superior, skilled in tulip valuation.
The plan almost works perfectly except the maid's boyfriend returns from sea, confronts her about her "affair" which she denies and shows him their daughter. Sophia's husband overhears the whole thing and rather than firing her or trying to find his wife, he signs over all of his property to her and her boyfriend and sails for the East Indies.
If you got through all that you'll realize that way too much was going on. While all these twists were interesting, they seemed to veer too far off the path and feel too complicated for what's basically a foolish wife's ridiculous plan against a good husband.
Still, the film makes for interesting post-viewing conversation. Tulip Fever fails to get your blood boiling but it will keep your mind going in circles.
Its impressive set pieces and solid cast are terribly wasted with silly dialogue, convoluted plot, an overreliance on soap opera clichés, and an uneven and derivative narrative.
Boring love story, and vapid premise.
mmmmmmmmmm.... I don't know......
While critics are pretty unanimously united in their distaste for Tulip Fever, I have to admit I quite enjoyed it: yes, the film is oddly structured, and seems to be more concerned with making you think you're watching 17th Century Dutch paintings come to life than actually telling its semi-religious parable of sin and penitence, and yes, so little dialogue is spoken that you could be forgiven for thinking you actually were watching a painting, but this is the sort of tale that requires that heavy, gloomy, oily atmosphere of silence and damp sadness that can only be found in the works of a Vermeer or Rembrandt. Vikander and Waltz are stony monoliths throughout most of the movie, but they need to be, so as to make their eventual release, their freedom, ever more beautiful. My only complaint is that Cara Delevingne was entirely wasted in a hugely insignificant role.
As the consensus has it the dialogue was indeed turgid and flat but the plot was not excessive at all but lacking in dramatic tension - largely thanks to the weak casting of De Haan. Sumptuous cinematography, costumes and historical veracity, though.
It’s practically cheaper now to walk into a comfy theater and take couple hours nap on a relaxing tilted chair than walking into a 8 motel and pay for a room to get a long nap....this movie is great candidate for taking your nap.....
An endearing romance ruined by contrived writing.
Tulip Fever (2017) is Justin Chadwick's period romance film that is pretty and entertaining, but falls apart at the ridiculous ending. The fact that a woman would suddenly decide she did not love her sweetheart and immediately leave society to become a nun and never be seen by him at a convent he frequented for 8 years is just beyond me. The entire plot of Tulip Fever is mind numbing to comprehend how dumb the narrative gets due to strangely complicated subplots.
Writer Deborah Moggach is such an odd scriptwriter. Her romance is believable and her individual characters make sense. As far as the overall plot structure goes, she is way out of her depth. You cannot base an entire plot off of endless coincidences. Tulip Fever's plot revolves around a fishmonger that happens to buy a random plot of tulips, that happens to have a rare tulip, that happens to get lost when he happens to get robbed for all his money, when he happens to get into a fight that happens to get him shipped off to the navy, that happens to not allow him to inform the leading women he is gone. Accounting for all that unbelievable garbage plot line, there are any number of other coincidences that occur simply because Moggach writes everyone to act like no person ever would. You'd think a shrewd producer like the infamous Harvey Weinstein would have trimmed this one down to size, but instead he was busy being ousted as a monstrous sex pervert and rapist. It's crazy nonsense that unfortunately ruins the film and wastes all the wonderful potential of Tulip Fever.
Chadwick's direction is sleek and stylish that complements the beautiful period costumes. Danny Elfman's score is pretty and mesmerizes you into believing this romance between a lady and a painter. The editing goes overboard at times, but overall cuts to clever moments that connect the leads to staring at each other longingly. Eigil Bryld's cinematography is clever to show any necessary detail in someone's costume, placement, or gaze for future importance to the plot. Tulip Fever is pretty meticulously plotted in that regard at least.
I must mention that I genuinely enjoyed the acting in Tulip Fever. Alicia Vikander is excellent as the miserable wife Sophia, who dreams of real love. Her uncertainty in her affections feels sincere and makes her all the more sympathetic. Dane DeHaan gives one of his few remarkable performances as the romantic painter Jan Van Loos. His serious nature makes his painting sequences genuine and his eyes and voice fit a romantic lead alongside Vikander's deeper sultry voice. They appear to have nice chemistry and feel like a real couple on screen. Both leading performances are great, honestly.
Christoph Waltz is fun as Cornelis Sandvoort. His callus ignorance for Vikander's feelings is upsetting and his jolly joy when he thinks he will finally be a father is endearing. For a gross character, Waltz almost makes you like the guy.
Kevin McKidd has a nice cameo supporting role in the tulip auction house as Johan de Bye. Cara Delevingne is good in her supporting role as Annetje, but is underutilized in the story. She gets a lot across from her facial expressions and remains memorable despite her short screen time. Same with Dame Judi Dench as The Abbess of St. Ursula. She is excellent as always, but only gets around 3 memorable scenes.
Funnily enough, Zach Galifianakis is hilarious as the drunkard Gerrit, an assistant to DeHaan. Tom Hollander is also very funny likable as a scam artist named Dr. Sorgh. Hollander makes sure you are entertained any time he is on screen with his affable presence.
Lastly, the supporting leads, Holliday Grainger and Jack O'Connell, are convincing in their romance, but feel out of place. Maria and Willem's love story is bittersweet and nice to watch, but I just am not interested in their story relative to Vikander and DeHaan. They always feel secondary and distracting to the plot. It's like they're only there to mess up the main couple's lives with the strangest case of mistaken identity and misplaced tulip buds.
Overall, I cannot recommend Tulip Fever. If you want nice acting and a sweet love story, that's all Tulip Fever is good for probably. It's a pretty film and an entertaining movie until the terrible ending. It could easily have ended with a happy ending, but goes out of its way to hit you with an unrealistic twist, if you can even call it that. Tulip Fever ends in an obvious reveal that just leaves you dissatisfied. I'd rather have gone out and bought some tulips to smell for a pleasant afternoon instead of sit through Tulip Fever.
The future of cinema in such an annoyingly anachronistic work? The tulpenmanie as a speculative bubble allusive of today's global financial crisis? Alicia Vikander's bony nudes erotic? We're at filmic necrophilia.
Dull and dour when it should have been uplifting and farcical.