Reel Opinions


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tulip Fever

Originally filmed back in 2014, and initially planned as an Oscar contender, Tulip Fever is finally just now limping into theaters after years of various broken release dates, and an overall sense that the studio was trying to cover the stench of this once highly-regarded project when they refused to screen it for critics.  This is a lifeless, drab and contrived costume drama that ranges from lurid melodrama to moments of inappropriate comedy, and ultimately sinks despite the presence of a strong cast. 

I have not read Deborah Moggach's original novel that inspired the film, but just by watching it, I can tell that this adaptation more or less covers the important plot moments, but gives them no resonance or meaning.  The screenplay reads almost as if the writers simply looked at the book's plot synopsis on Wikipedia, and then used it as their inspiration.  This is surprising, considering that Moggach herself is credited as one of the screenwriters.  However, considering how long the movie has been sitting on the shelf, and the various edits it went through in order to make it semi-watchable, you have to wonder how much of her work actually survived the process.  Whatever the case, all the passion and life has been drained from what could have easily been an intriguing historical drama.

The title refers to a point in history during 1636 to 1637 when in Amsterdam, tulips were discovered, and the demand for these new flowers became so high that people were paying astronomical prices for them.  Many scenes occur in an auction house that somewhat resembles the modern day stock market, where people wildly bid and pay hefty wages for the rights to own the flowers.  However, much of this occurs in the background throughout the movie, so it never quite has the prominence that you would expect, given that the title is derived from this element of the story.  Instead, the main plot focuses on a love triangle that would feel right at home in any daytime soap opera, or perhaps a cheap paperback romance novel. 

The plot kicks off with a former orphan named Sophia (Alicia Vikander), and her forbidden love affair with a young painter named Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan, who is not having a very good 2017, having also appeared in bombs such as A Cure for Wellness and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets).  Sophia was once penniless, but now lives a life of luxury as the second wife to businessman Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz).  Her main purpose in the marriage is to give Cornelis a child.  Although her husband is kind to her and gives her everything she desires, Sophia feels no love toward him.  She is also unable to conceive a child, so she feels trapped in her dreary existence.  The audience shares in her misery, since many of the scenes between Vikander and Waltz (who, it must be said, is doing his best with this lifeless material) generates no emotion whatsoever.

The young artist Jan Van Loos is plucked from obscurity in order to conceive a portrait of the couple, and that is when the trouble begins.  It is love at first sight for both Sophia and Jan, and before you know it, she's sneaking out at all hours in order to have sexual flings with the painter.  This is interspersed with a subplot concerning Cornelis' maid, Maria (Holliday Grainger), who is also carrying on her own secret affair with the handsome young fishmonger William (Jack O'Connell).  All these secrets and sleeping around eventually catch up with our characters, and creates a complicated scenario where everyone involved will have their lives changed and destroyed.  However, it all unfurls at such a turgid pace, the audience simply remains detached during the entire experience.

Tulip Fever is filled with multiple plots vying for attention, yet none of them are interesting.  The movie tries to be a history lesson as well as a steamy and lurid love affair story, but this requires severe tonal shifts that the movie is incapable of pulling off.  Stranger still, there are moments that seem to be aiming for comedy that feel completely out of place.  Most inappropriate is the bizarre appearance of Zach Galifianakis as a good friend of the young painter, whose every attempt to lighten up the material crashes with a thud so loud, it can probably be heard in the next cinema over.  Judi Dench also turns up in a small role as an abbess, and while she delivers as usual, her character has so little to do with anything that it never builds to anything interesting.  You get the sense that Dench is here solely to lend what the filmmakers knew was a trouble production a touch of dignity.

But the film's ultimate downfall is that we simply are uninvolved with the complex romantic love story that it is trying to spin.  You can easily pin the blame on the witless screenplay that is often as dry as a bone in both its dialogue and drama, but it's even easier to point at the lifeless performances as being unable to generate any emotion or sympathy for these people.  The usually strong and always interesting Alicia Vikander seems awkward here, and plays Sophia not as a woman trapped in a loveless marriage, but rather as somebody who has never felt love before in her life, and is trying to sort out her feelings.  Likewise, DeHaan creates no interest in his performance as the painter, and is able to create little to no romantic chemistry with Vikander.  This is what sinks everything.  If we don't buy the central scandalous romance, we don't buy everything else.  Director Justin Chadwick simply finds no reason for us to connect with the story or the people inhabiting it.

The only bright spots in Tulip Fever is the production design, which is often quite handsome, and the music score provided by Danny Elfman.  They hint at what the film was supposed to be, before it became a dirty little secret that the studio tried to keep hidden by pushing it out in limited release over Labor Day Weekend, one of the slowest movie weekends of the year.  It's obvious that there were grand ambitions here, but they were brought down by an overall leaden script and the lifeless or just wrong performances.  Instead of the awards and critical acclaim that the studio had in their heads when they embarked on this, the movie is likely to be greeted with empty cinemas and a quick trip to DVD.

0 comments

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007
08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007
09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007
10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007
11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007
12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008
01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008
02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008
03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008
04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008
05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008
06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008
07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008
08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008
09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008
10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008
11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008
12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009
01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009
02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009
03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009
04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009
05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009
06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009
07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009
08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009
09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009
10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009
11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009
12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010
01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010
02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010
03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010
04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010
05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010
06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010
07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010
08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010
09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010
10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010
11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010
12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011
01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011
02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011
03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011
04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011
05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011
06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011
07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011
08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011
09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011
10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011
11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011
12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012
01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012
02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012
03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012
04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012
05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012
06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012
07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012
08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012
09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012
10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012
11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012
12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013
01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013
02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013
03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013
04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013
05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013
06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013
07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013
08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013
09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013
10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013
11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013
12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014
01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014
02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014
03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014
04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014
05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014
06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014
07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014
08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014
09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014
10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014
11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014
12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015
01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015
02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015
03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015
04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015
05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015
06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015
07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015
08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015
09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015
10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015
11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015
12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016
01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016
02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016
03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016
04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016
05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016
06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016
07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016
08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016
09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016
10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016
11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016
12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017
01/01/2017 - 02/01/2017
02/01/2017 - 03/01/2017
03/01/2017 - 04/01/2017
04/01/2017 - 05/01/2017
05/01/2017 - 06/01/2017
06/01/2017 - 07/01/2017
07/01/2017 - 08/01/2017
08/01/2017 - 09/01/2017
09/01/2017 - 10/01/2017
10/01/2017 - 11/01/2017
11/01/2017 - 12/01/2017
12/01/2017 - 01/01/2018

Powered by Blogger