[Screen It]


(2017) (Alicia Vikander, Dean DeHaan) (R)

Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

Drama: Two young lovers -- a married woman and the artist her older husband commissioned to do a portrait of her -- hedge their getaway and future together on feverish speculation surrounding the value of tulips in 17th century Amsterdam.
It's the 1630s in Amsterdam and Sophia (ALICIA VIKANDER) is a young woman who three years ago left the orphanage run by an Abbess (JUDI DENCH) to become the bride of peppercorn king Cornelis Sandvoort (CHRISTOPH WALTZ). Unfortunately, she's been unable to get pregnant, something that's left her distraught, although he has no problem continuing to try to make that happen.

Things change when he commissions young artist Jan Van Loos (DANE DeHAAN) to paint a portrait of him and Sophia. Once she and Jan lock eyes, they're instantly smitten and it's not long before they enter into a torrid affair. Sophia manages to keep that secret from her husband, but not from their maid, Maria (HOLLIDAY GRAINGER), who's just learned she's pregnant by her fishmonger boyfriend, Willem Brok (JACK O'CONNELL), who's been forced into naval service, unbeknownst to Maria.

Realizing Cornelis will fire her for being in that state, Maria blackmails Sophia with threats of revealing her affair should Cornelis learn of the pregnancy. The two women then join forces where Sophia pretends to be pregnant, with a devious plan attached to the end of that, all so that she can run off with Jan. At the same time, he's gotten into the volatile and potentially profitable world of tulip speculation that he hopes to use to make enough money so that he and Sophia can live happily ever after.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
There's no denying the human brain has allowed our species to develop abilities Og the caveman could never have envisioned tens of thousands of years ago, and ones that went well above and beyond the rest of the animal world's more simple desires for territory, mates, food, and water.

Who would have imagined way back when that we'd travel to the bottom of the sea and take flight to the moon? Or cure diseases, expand our natural lifespan or even create artificial intelligence? Of course, the latter could come back to haunt us, much like war, genocide, racism, slavery and other such social ills the human mind has created over the millennia. On a less devastation related scale, human intelligence has also pushed people beyond the basic survival needs and created the notion of materialism and wealth.

Thus, certain mineral ores became valuable commodities, just like first edition comic books, Beanie Babies and dot-com era Internet companies that were operating in the red but made millionaires and even billionaires out of certain prospectors.

But one of the weirder commodity fads occurred back in the Dutch Golden Age of the 1630s when, of all things, tulips became one of the first, if not the original speculative boom, bubble, and burst known to civilized man. Like most fads, it didn't last long, and it was pretty much forgotten to all but historians. That is, until author Deborah Moggach used it as the backdrop for her 1999 period drama, "Tulip Fever."

Like its subject matter the novel caught fire and Hollywood came running after it with cinematic speculation that it would be the next big costume drama of note. But like other booms, the filmed adaptation went bust, first with the usual changing of involved talent ( Jude Law, Keira Knightley, and Jim Broadbent were set to star, with "Shakespeare in Love's" John Madden set to direct), and then an unusual number of delays and release reschedulings bedeviled the film.

Now several years after it was first completed, the adaptation hits the big screen in a film of the same name and with a tremendous cast that includes the likes of Oscar winners Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz and Judi Dench. But it also features Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne of "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" along with, of all performers for a costume drama, Zach Galifianakis. So, the question that now arises is whether the film is an Oscar contender wannabe, or some sort of "SNL" type spoof, what with, you know, the titular mania going on and the eclectic cast.

As directed by Justin Chadwick ("The Other Boleyn Girl") from a screenplay adaptation by Tom Stoppard (co-writer of "Shakespeare in Love"), it's definitely aiming for the former, and it has an interesting combo of man's advanced (if foolish) commodity valuation frenzy mixing with the age old and decidedly more primitive older male must contend with a younger suitor being after his mate storyline.

In short, Cornelis Sandvoort (Waltz) is an older spice trader with a much younger wife (Vikander) who suddenly draws the attention -- and vice versa -- of a young artist (DeHaan) commissioned to put her likeness on canvas. The two become lovers and then try to use the rising tulip speculation frenzy as their figurative and literal ticket out of Dodge. Or Amsterdam as the plot would have it.

You may just find yourself itching to get out of Dodge, Amsterdam or wherever you might be if you end sitting through this 107-some minute drama that simultaneously manages to take itself too seriously while also being unintentionally campy and goofy at times.

Not even the steamy love scenes between Vikander and DeHaan can heat up the proceedings enough to make this worthwhile, even on the simplest measure of lurid voyeurism, while the ones between her and Waltz are simply goofy (with his character talking about his "little soldier" and so on).

"Tulip Fever" won't get anyone's temperatures rising, and thus rates as only a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed September 1, 2017 / Posted September 1, 2017

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