This weekend marks the opening of Tulip Fever, a 17th-century costume drama starring Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, and Christoph Waltz. But unless you follow movie news very, very closely, odds are you’ve never heard of it.
Turns out there’s a good reason for that – at least based on the first wave of reviews. They range from lukewarm to scathing, making Tulip Fever the kind of movie that seems way more fun to read about than it actually is to watch.
Directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) and based on the novel by Deborah Moggach, Tulip Fever is set in the Netherlands in the 1637, at the height of the tulip market bubble. (Yes, this was a real thing that happened.) Sophia (Vikander) is married to a wealthy merchant (Waltz), and she’s terribly unhappy until she falls in love with Jan (DeHaan), the artist hired to paint their portraits.
So far, that description isn’t anything special. What makes Tulip Fever kind of odd is that the film was originally slated for release in 2015. It was pushed to 2016, then to early 2017, and now, finally, it’s opening in fall 2017. (Vulture has a good rundown of this film’s strange release history.)
That kind of treatment turned Tulip Fever from a forgettable bit of Oscar bait to a genuine curiosity: Just how bad could this movie be, that its distributors were trying so hard to hide it?
In a word: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times:
… [I]t’s neither a secret masterpiece nor a laughable disaster. True, there is the scene in which Jan (Dane DeHaan), the hunky portraitist having an affair with Sophia (Alicia Vikander), the unhappily married wife of a merchant, explains to her that the key to their escape is to bet big in the Dutch tulip market. “All we have to do is put all our eggs in one basket,” he says.
In another words: Why?
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:
It’s nothing compared to watching the clichés parade around on screen with shameless abandon. Who was Tulip Fever made for? Flower freaks? Film masochists? Completists who can’t resist seeing Zach Galifianakis and Judi Dench in the same movie. Yup, the star interviewer of Between Two Ferns and a Dame of the British Empire are also trapped in this car-wreck. At least they didn’t shell out good money to see it.
It’s definitely not a thriller
Rebecca Pahle, Pajiba:
If Tulip Fever is six movies carelessly slopped together into one, one movie that it isn’t is the erotic thriller it’s being marketed as. I want to be perfectly clear about this, because it’s hilarious: TULIP FEVER IS NOT AT ALL A THRILLER.
The “heroes” are assholes
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter:
The screenplay, credited to Moggach and Tom Stoppard, leaves the churn of emotional upheaval and danger described more than felt. Though Sophia and Jan’s course of action isn’t meant to be sympathetic, it should at least be involving. But the outrageously selfish scheme that they embark on — involving another woman’s pregnancy, an ethics-challenged doctor of “female mysteries” (Tom Hollander) and a big gamble on tulips — further distances them from the audience.
But at least Christoph Waltz comes out okay!
David Jenkins, Little White Lies:
If there’s something to salvage here it is Waltz, who at least refuses the easy option of making his character the cackling bad guy. His pitiable cuckold ends up with the most surprising and credible character arc, and even though he’s forced to play along with much gnarly dialogue, he manages to break even in the end.
Wait, what does any of this have to do with tulips?
Alissa Wilkinson, Vox:
For Tulip Fever, the tulip market becomes a metaphor for the uncertainty of love and sex, for the rush of investing all of your emotional energies in one person, and then the overwhelming crash when the relationship ends and all of the futures you imagined together are destroyed. (“We just need to put all our eggs in one basket!” cries Jan feverishly, referring either to investment strategy or babies, who knows.) And while sex and money are both dramatically heady themes, it’s hard to remain all that interested in either when they’re presented as bloodlessly as they are here.
Not even the guy releasing Tulip Fever seems that into Tulip Fever
In a way, though, the most damning “review” of Tulip Fever may actually be its own distributor’s preemptive defense of it. Here’s Harvey Weinstein in Deadline:
No, they weren’t telling me that it’s Citizen Kane or Shakespeare In Love, but they loved the performances, the cinematography, the costumes, the twists and turns, and enjoyed it for the film it is. […] I know this film’s not perfect, very few are, but it’s a perfectly good time in a movie theater.
“It’s no Shakespeare in Love.” “Enjoyed it for the film it is.” “I know it’s not perfect.” Good grief, if that’s how the guy selling this movie is describing it, that might tell you all you need to know.
Anyway, Tulip Fever is in theaters now.
Read more: http://mashable.com/