In 17th Century Amsterdam, an orphaned girl Sophia (Alicia Vikander) is forcibly married to a rich and powerful merchant Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz) - an unhappy "arrangement" that saves her from poverty. After her husband commissions a portrait, she begins a passionate affair with the painter Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan), a struggling young artist. Seeking to escape the merchant's ever-reaching grasp, the lovers risk everything and enter the frenzied tulip bulb market, with the hope that the right bulb will make a fortune and buy their freedom. Written by
Before you were born, Amsterdam was captivated by a flower: the tulip. They came from far away in the East and were so rare and beautiful that people lost their senses in wanting to own them. Rich and poor were spending and borrowing money to join the trade in bulbs, which were going up in price all the time. None more so than the rare striped tulips that were called breakers. A new breaker came from nowhere like an act of God, and it changed people's lives. A white ...
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IN BRIEF: A love story that never blossoms into anything remotely realistic or moving.
SYNOPSIS: A historical romance set in 16th century Amsterdam that follows two star-crossed lovers amid the flower wars.
JIM'S REVIEW: Behold the tulip! Most delicate and beautiful, yet fragile and easily bruised. Its life expectancy is short-lived and it sags from its own top heaviness, finally withering after its bloom. The same can be said about its namesake, 's Tulip Fever, an overwrought illogical melodrama that is fetching to gaze upon and, quite literally, a dull affair.
Tulip Fever is a visual feast for the eyes and a fertilizer for the mind. There is some good here, at least, technically: The stunning production design by Simon Elliott, detailed period costumes created by Michael O'Connor, and Eigil Bryld's luscious photography are first rate. Danny Elfman has a lovely score also. These artisans deserve better future projects. But mostly, there is plenty of bad on view.
Justin Chadwick directed this potboiler with little flourish. His film is well crafted but its central romance is tepid at best. The screenplay, based on Deborah Moggach's best-selling romance novel, tries to interweave its narrative with some historical accuracy and some sexual passion and fails in both aspects. That celebrated playwright Tom Stoppard (along with the author) created this sluggish and loopy film adaptation is mind-boggling to me. The love story elements never gels with the political backstory and it all leads to an ending that becomes thoroughly nonsensical and unsatisfying.
The story-line goes like this: Apparently tulips were all the rage in Amsterdam, a valued commodity back in the mid 1600's. This special and rare flower brought high prices in what appeared to be a Ponzi scheme of sorts and the owner of this flora could earn serious guilders. Jan van Loos (Dane DeHaan, very miscast), a talented but struggling artist, wants to be part of the " flower fever". Hired to commission portraits of a rich merchant and his lovely young wife (already you can see where this is going), Jan begins a torrid love tryst with Sophia (Alicia Vikander) while his cuckold husband Cornelius (Christoph Waltz), who is in dire need of a male heir, is oblivious to their nightly romps.
Mr. Waltz, forever typecasts as The Man You Love to Hate, takes over the villain role and adds some nice layers to his stock character. But Ms. Vikander and especially Mr. DeHaan are unconvincing and unappealing in their roles as the doomed lovers. Their love scenes together are laughable. Mr. DeHaan, always a poor man's Leonardo diCaprio type, seems like a little lost boy in heat and Ms. Vikander rarely finds the right persona of a woman losing control over her life. Instead she loses control of her character. The two actors fail to add the necessary heat to burn those embers of passion. Yes, they're naked and sweaty, but who cares?
The supporting cast is totally wasted and the talent involved is given little to do. Such fine British performers as Holliday Grainger, Jack O'Connell, Douglas Hodge, David Harewood, and the great Judi Dench are ill-treated. American and Scottish actors are treated no better as Matthew Morrison and Kevin McKidd are given little to do. Tom Hollander does succeed in adding some needed humor in a minor role. But Cara Delevingine and Zach Galifianakis are walking enigmas in their parts as a prostitute and manservant, although if they switch roles, the film would at least be memorable.
Tulip Fever reinforces the law of supply and demand in the core of its storytelling. Unfortunately, good drama is in short supply and demand to see this film should be limited. So don't invest your time or money in this folly. It's a real bust.
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