Despite an A-list cast and creative team, this wannabe prestige picture ends up being period piffle
TULIP FEVER (Justin Chadwick). 105 minutes. Opens Friday (September 1). See listing. Rating: NN
Tulip Fever is awfully disappointing for a movie that’s been sitting on a shelf for the last three years. You want it to be either hopelessly bad or a secret masterpiece, and all you get is generic all-star period piffle shot all too obviously on a London soundstage.
Ostensibly adapted from a 2000 novel by Deborah Moggach, Tulip Fever’s true source text is 1998 romantic comedy Shakespeare In Love – or Restoration or Chocolat or The Cider House Rules, or any of a dozen other projects commissioned by producer Harvey Weinstein to court Oscar glory back when Miramax was riding high.
Weinstein used to crank out these prestige package deals like clockwork, enlisting the services of actors with whom he was already doing business – which explains why watching Tulip Fever now looks like a snapshot of an art-house marquee from 2013. There’s that girl from Testament Of Youth! That kid from The Place Beyond The Pines! And Glee’s Matthew Morrison for some reason!
Alicia Vikander and Dane DeHaan are the leads, an unhappily married young woman in 1640s Holland and the struggling artist hired by her vainglorious husband (Christoph Waltz) to paint their portrait. Sparks fly, and Vikander is polite enough not to say anything about DeHaan’s accent, and before you know it they’re rolling around in his sun-dappled garret.
Their subsequent relationship is just one of several secrets that must be concealed in a vaguely farcical fashion, including a pregnancy and a clumsily faked death. There’s also a subplot about the madness of the tulip market, pitched as The Wolf Of Wall Street with neck ruffles.
Despite a script co-written by Tom Stoppard and a cast that also includes Holliday Grainger, Judi Dench, Jack O’Connell, Tom Hollander, Cara Delevingne and somehow Zach Galifianakis, it all turns to dishwater in the hands of director Justin Chadwick, who made similar hash out of another all-star period project, The Other Boleyn Girl.
Best to just let it go down the drain.