THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY (2017)
Director: Justin Chadwick
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Zach Galifianakis, Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, Cara Delevingne, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander
Sod Beatlemania…Tulip mania is where it’s at.
Tulips, lust, sex, a barely distinguishable Zach Galifianakis and a creepily charged Christoph Waltz all combine to create the strange Tulip Fever – a blend of styles that fight for supremacy, but the movie never settles on any specific one.
Adapted from Deborah Moggach’s novel of the same name, the movie had been on the shelf for a few years before TWC finally decided to unleash it on the public.
A public which probably could’ve done with it being delayed for a bit longer.
In the 17th Century, tulips were the thing to have. The new imports from exotic locations changed hands on the ‘tulip market’ for then astronomical fees, all for the chance to exhibit the rare and beautiful flower in their abodes. When up-and-coming artist Jan van Loos (DeHaan) is commissioned to paint a portrait of wealthy businessman Cornelis Sandvoort (Waltz) and his young, attractive wife, Sophia (Vikander), romance blossoms between the artist and the repressed wife and tulips could be the key to their hopes of escaping their lives and being together.
Tulip Fever as a movie struggles to find a consistent tone with which to run with. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just rudderless. The first act is pure period piece – a wife locked into a marriage with a husband - one struggling to coerce his flappy “little soldier” into “doing its duty” in the desire for a son to become heir to the business supporting them both. The subplot of the tulip market is always in the background and the introduction of Judi Dench as The Abbess of St. Ursula (cool title) – head of an orphanage that also grows tulip bulbs – adds another layer to the story. That’s before DeHaan’s limp artist swoops in to save the day. Also, throw in the fact that the handmaiden Maria (Grainger) becomes pregnant and, in order to protect her from her families scorn, agrees to pretend the baby is Cornelis and Sophia’s – leading to some not quite slapstick humour.
It’s a jumbled blend of subplots and tones that never really work smoothly.
The performances are nothing to be sniffed at, they’re all professional but there are no real standouts amongst the cast. Judi Dench is as reliable as ever in her matriarchal role, with Vikander and Waltz ably performing also – the latter having the movies key arc and his transformation from letchy old fiend to sympathetic loser is the highlight of Tulip Fever. There’s nothing whiffy about DeHaan’s portrayal, he just never sold me as a throbbing sexual deviant, lacking the necessary charisma to sell the role. At least Vikander and DeHaan look good together. Also, there’s a pre-Valerian link up for DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, who is afforded a hideous accent in her small cameo.
Scenes are coated in dreary colours of the time, there’s plenty of shades of brown to be seen and the memo must have read – neutral colours everywhere. Had it not been for Sophia’s striking blue dress and the majestic cream and maroon of the tulips, this would have been a struggle on the eyes.
There are moments during the odd ‘baby switch up’ scenes which have genuine comic moments to bring some much-needed levity to Tulip Fever and Galifianakis is allowed to flounce about drunk and have some fun also. Flaccid phallus coercer Waltz has some incredible (see: disturbing) lines in his quest for a steaming erection and had it not been for his character arc, those shuddering scenes would’ve defined his role. The sex scenes are shot well, all handheld and close up – you can almost smell the action… - and function better than the entirety of both Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker.
For a movie that struggled to even secure a release, it’s disappointing that it isn’t a complete failure. Tulip Fever is at best an average movie with a good few positives, but far more negatives on its sail. Not being able to tie itself down (pseudo-comedy? Tragic story of doomed lovers? Period drama?) becomes the movies main downfall, and one it couldn’t have recovered from even if it really, really tried. Tulip Fever ends up being simply disappointing and is destined to be forgotten very quickly.
November 20th 2017