The Hippo


May 31, 2020








Tulip Fever

Tulip Fever (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Two women try to manage their unnecessarily complex love lives during a boom in the tulip market in 1630something Amsterdam in Tulip Fever, an enjoyably dumb soapy romance.

Sophia Sandvoort (Alicia Vikander) was essentially sold to her husband Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz). The deal is that she bears for him a few children in exchange for his giving her a comfortable life and the funds to send her younger siblings to an aunt living in New Amsterdam. After three years of marriage, however, all she’s been able to provide is wifely companionship, not the heir and spares he’s been hoping for.
To show off the fact that at least he got a pretty young wife out of the deal, Cornelis hires a painter, Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan), to paint their portraits. Sophia and Jan have an instant, ridiculous attraction to each other, demonstrated for us by a bunch of hilarious, overheated close-ups. It doesn’t take long for Sophia to find an excuse (involving tulips, of course) to visit Jan and thus their affair begins.
Meanwhile, Maria (Holliday Grainger), Sophia’s maid, is having her own sweet romance with Willem Brok (Jack O’Connell), the local fish seller. To raise the money for their marriage, Willem speculates in the tulip market and does well. But a dumb coincidence and some poor choices lead to Willem’s being kidnapped into the navy, and Maria believing he has run off. Worse, she learns he’s disappeared at roughly the same time she realizes she is pregnant.
So the married lady wants a baby but can’t seem to have one and the unmarried lady is pregnant but can’t have a baby without destroying her reputation and employability. Hmm, I wonder if anyone will come up with a harebrained plan to solve both of these problems! Perhaps a seriously shady doctor (Tom Hollander) and a complicated scheme involving yet more tulip speculation will figure in to it some how. 
I’ll confess: when looking at last weekend’s movie theater listings — which I think were best described by the phrase “here’s some random stuff” — I specifically picked Tulip Fever out of a handful of other movies you’ll probably never hear about again as the movie to review. And, I’ll also confess, I specifically picked it because it looked like a dopey movie about people in corsets and doublets having sexy times. And that’s what it was! I’m kind of delighted! It’s not good, it’s not well-written or well-acted, but it was as expected and if I’m grading on a curve, it’s that. I wanted a Hostess Cupcake, I got a Hostess Cupcake. I don’t always want to eat Hostess Cupcakes, in fact mostly I specifically want a better, more complex and flavorful cupcake, but this one time it was satisfying.
If you’ve ever thought “I want to watch people in impractical fashion have romantic troubles that I have no stake in or emotional attachment to” this is your movie. It’s nice sometimes to watch a movie and not particularly like the “heroine” or care if her dopey relationship to her dopey love interest (and love interests don’t get dopier than the ones played by Dane DeHaan) works out. Sophia is a daffy character played daffily by Vikander. Maria is a more humanoid person, with something like normal emotions, and Holliday Grainger is fun but she won’t be winning any Oscars either. 
The lack of a performance of any significance from Waltz is a little surprising, but the sprinkling of prestige acting comes instead from Judi Dench as an Abbess who raised the orphaned Sophia and is now quite the player in the tulip game. Also showing up in a very high-school-English-assignment-like riff on a Shakespearean comic relief character is Zach Galifianakis. And Matthew Morrison is there, in some interesting facial hair. “Hey, is that that guy from Glee?” is kind of the beginning and end of his character. (Similarly, I thought “hey, it’s the guy from Rome,” which is kind of all Kevin McKidd does here. And no, I do not watch Grey’s Anatomy. Also, Cara Delevingne has a bit part, which made me think of the recent Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and the oddball apparently-junior-high-school-aged soldiers she and DeHaan played. Wonder Woman and that, Baby Driver and The Emoji Movie — it was a weird summer.)
Tulip Fever has glints of humor but is not particularly funny. It has a few cutesy moments (mostly between Maria and Willem) but isn’t truly romantic. It’s the kind of movie where you can take a few minutes out to consider somebody’s poofy blue dress (that is a nice color of blue, you might think, could I pull that off?) or the general silliness of the stiff ruffled collars (what does that do for anybody?) and not miss anything or feel like you’ve somehow disrespected the theme and tone of the movie. Tulip Fever is just the right mix of overheated and underbaked to be a medium-speed OK time. It is, enthusiastically, a delightful C.
Rated R. Directed by Justin Chadwick with a screenplay by Deborah Moggach (who wrote the novel on which the movie is based) and Tom Stoppard, Tulip Fever is an hour and 47 minutes long and is distributed by The Weinstein Company. 

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu