It’s been three long years with three different release dates, but America finally experiences ‘Tulip Fever’. Set In 17th Century Amsterdam, an orphaned girl Sophia (Alicia Vikander) is forcibly married to a rich and powerful merchant named Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz). Their union is an unhappy “arrangement” that saves her from poverty, so needless to say the love simply isn’t there. After her husband commissions a portrait of his wife to cement their union, Sophia soon begins a passionate affair with the painter Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan), a struggling young artist commissioned for his biggest payday. 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 for A life together of eternal happiness. ‘Tulip Fever’ is directed by Justin Chadwick, and is rated R for sexual content involving nudity, and adult language.
‘Tulip Fever’ has sat on the proverbial release date shelf for three years now, and at A time when I began to wonder if this film would ever see the light of day, I can now understand the entire picture now that it’s come into focus. Speaking of focus, this is A movie that has none, jumping between A dual narrative path between two stories that jumbles and over-extends the necessity of telling one competent plot that feeds the purpose of many characters. The plot that I described above is only approached at surface level. Hell, even the trailer focuses entirely on just the love triangle that plays out on-screen between Vikander, Dehaan, and Waltz, ignoring the majority of the actual film that is narrated by Holiday Granger, A supporting character whose story herself is thrust into the mainstay of this picture, and takes every opportunity to halt the progression of the movie’s attention span. Granger serves as the narrator of the film, which presents us with A difficult narrative to see things in the same way that she did; from the outside, but Chadwick’s film often feels too cozy with this direction, focusing too much on throwaway characters and events, and not enough on the dramatic pull of A love triangle that brought the butts into the seats with A trailer that focused solely on that aspect. Film trailers offering false advertising are certainly nothing new, but ‘Tulip Fever’ takes the concept to new heights, presenting us with A finished product that doesn’t feel anything like the movie that I was promised even so much in tone.
To its credit, ‘Tulip Fever’ has something for everyone. If you’re here for drama, you will soak your intrigue into soap-opera like atmospheres that build to something great only to leave you unsatisfied at the grasp of underwhelming direction. If you prefer comedy, well this one’s got that too, orchestrating the most complex plan of deceit that I have seen in A long time. Movies are all about suspending disbelief, but if you bought into this plan of Vikander’s for one moment, your intelligence clearly comes at a cheap price for these screenwriters. I sort of found myself laughing louder with each passing moment late in the second act for the sheer ridiculousness that unfolds the petals of complexity to something that could’ve been told with such ease in simplistic outlining. As I mentioned earlier, the film doesn’t even find this triangle to be the most fascinating aspect of its material, so it becomes this sort of hack-and-slash Frankenstein mold that feels like it has been through the editing room floor one too many times, leaving us with these stand alone scenes that never gel together as one cohesive bond.
A lot of this reasoning comes in the form of sloppy pacing that carves into the introductions early on of this stellar A-list ensemble cast. The first twenty minutes were definitely the most difficult to stay in-tuned to, and that’s asking A lot considering the first act of any movie is used to build your internal investment to these characters, but Vikander, Waltz and Granger come in and out of frame without even the slightest backstory or exposition to feel like you understand their mentalities for future actions. This never ceases to get any better as the film goes on, and I found myself having great difficulty in trying to side with anyone who remotely resembled A human being. When I was ignoring the aspects in plot that felt violently shoved into this dramatic threesome angle, I did come away with some cheap thrills of momentum leading into the finale, but once again the movie fumbles this blessing with such an anti-climax that you can actually hear the increasing drama slowly sinking out of. Maybe it’s the wide range of plot holes that they’re elating out from, but that’s another review in itself to get into those stretches.
The performances aren’t half bad, but the majority just kind of serve as A giant missed opportunity for one of the best put together casts that I have seen in A single picture this year. To that perspective, Dehaan is once again terribly miscast here, Granger never gets her moment to shine, and the appearances of Zach Galifanakis, Cara Delevigne, and Judi Dench are nothing more than afterthought cameos who occasionally pop up to remind you of their presence. With this much facial firepower, this film could’ve easily caught A lot of buzz amongst mainstream moviegoers looking to get into independent cinema, but their purpose (If they ever had one) feels violently shaped here to limit them from ever stealing the stage, and that is A Major missed opportunity. Vikander can do much with very little character direction, and that ideal rears itself aplenty here, as Vikander’s cold eyes emote A woman who is longing to be free with the kind of love that she knows she deserves. It’s unfortunate that we’ll never really know what makes Sophia tick internally, but any chance to see Vikander is A blessing to this critic, and Alicia does wonders even in her worst role to date. Waltz is disgustingly delightful, reading some truly wincing dialogue lines that only he could made entertaining by his unflinching commitment. The love sequences between Vikander and Waltz are portrayed with such A lack of passion intentionally, and would do wonders in comparison with Vikander and Dehaan if the latter didn’t lacked any kind of chemistry or passion between them to get the hearts pumping of the people watching in theater. Without that drive in comparison, the film gravely lacks A satisfying payoff worthy of its many big names.
If you do look at my score and wonder why I rate this movie higher than it sounds, it’s because the aesthetic touch is certainly there, radiating A soft touch of natural lighting and cinematography that do more than enough to articulately craft the setting of this period piece. There’s A kind of hazy feel to the exterior shots in the film, granting us the surroundings that can only be made authentic by Europe during the 17th century. The set pieces are very intricate, detailing the posh and lavish lifestyles of the rich when compared to the tight and closely depicted camera angles of the poor to represent their limitations. The editing as well is A major benefit to the ideal of obsession that Dehaan’s character portrays for Vikander’s, and I greatly enjoyed their movements accordingly to seeing the actress in many different settings during her self portrait scenes with Dehaan. It’s kind of cool to see things in the same vein that he sees them here, relaying that A painter must ingest what he is depicting to bring to life the very color of that character.
THE VERDICT – ‘Tulip Fever’ is A constant reminder that sometimes the worst things aren’t worth waiting for. Director Justin Chadwick’s forgettable anti-drama set during the 17th century is one that lives up to aesthetic production challenges, but fails miserably at crafting a cohesive three-act structure that keeps its eyes on the prize. This one is the very definition of the term ‘Disjointed’, limping itself between two stories so opposite in approach that they often limit the potential of the other. To be considered A fever, the subject would need A pulse, and the lifeless motions of the film’s finale hint that this shell of A film was better left in the closet of obscurity than to see the light of day at A cost like this.