Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Christoph Waltz, Holliday Grainger, Jack O'Connell, Zach Galifianakis, Tom Hollander, Matthew Morrison, Judi Dench, Cara Delevingne, Kevin McKidd
Written by: Deborah Moggach, Tom Stoppard, based on a novel by Deborah Moggach
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and nudity
Running Time: 105
Date: 09/01/2017

Tulip Fever (2017)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dour Arrangement

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If a movie can be tone-deaf, then this costume drama is; it takes a preposterous story and tells it clumsily, with strange choices made all around and most of the plot turns either confusing or dumb.

In Tulip Fever, orphan Sophia (Alicia Vikander) comes of age and is sent to be the wife of widower Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz), though their efforts to have a child prove fruitless. Cornelis commissions a painting to be done of them and hires Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan). Jan falls in love with Sophia and they begin an affair.

Meanwhile, Cornelis and Sophia's housekeeper Maria (Holliday Grainger) is secretly seeing the fishmonger, Willem (Jack O'Connell), who in turn has begun investing in the ballooning tulip market in order to marry Maria. When Willem is shipped off to the navy and Maria turns up pregnant, Sophia cooks up a plan. But it involves Jan himself attempting to turn Willem's abandoned tulips into a pile of cash.

Based on Deborah Moggach's novel and shelved for well over a year, Tulip Fever is ostensibly about the fascinating, real-life tulip craze of the 17th century, with people paying fortunes for bulbs. However, its focus is, unfortunately, more on the characters and their crazy, sitcom-level plan. The plan requires characters to be either stupid or naïve.

Whenever any of them dashes off into the next part of the story, they seem totally oblivious to what's about to happen when it's painfully obvious to the rest of us. For example, Zach Galifianakis co-stars as a kind of simple, drunken sidekick to Dane DeHaan's painter character, and when he is charged with an important errand, the results are glumly inevitable, yet the movie tries to generate both humor and suspense, badly, from the scene.

Director Justin Chadwick, whose work on two previous movies, The Other Boleyn Girl and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, was equally clueless, never seems to know where to place his camera or how to move it, and the resulting movie is a mess of moods and tones, failing in its logic, suspense, humor, or anything else.

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