It’s not that Tulip Fever is incompetently made or unpleasant to look at or offensive in any way. It’s just that it is very, very boring.
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It’s neither a secret masterpiece nor a laughable disaster.
Stoppard, remember, wrote the screenplay for the 1998 film "Shakespeare in Love," which brought wit and romance to this same period. Tulip Fever is not in that film's league, but it's lush and boisterous and crammed with the sort of arts gossip and commerce trivia that go nicely with gilded frames and talk of tulip futures.
Tulip Fever is a film a-swirl in what-ifs and what-could-have-beens. The years-long anticipation of its arrival has only heightened the stakes for what is – and what maybe always would have been – a harmless historical romp through some flowers.
Love makes people do crazy things, and as overwrought and silly as Tulip Fever is in both execution and aim, the film embodies that sentiment in an unexpectedly compelling manner. It’s unfortunate that it takes 107 minutes to get there, but a final twist offers the film’s sole play for emotional resonance.
As Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) piles on the coincidences and misdirections, the movie finally collapses under its own schematic weight, and wilts to the ground.
Not only is there nothing presently in the zeitgeist to which to peg such a story (except perhaps the Dane DeHaan-Cara Delevingne reunion nobody asked for, shot before “Valerian” and shelved for nearly a year), but the entire package has a curiously old-fashioned feel — and not just because it takes place 380 years ago.
Forget fever – this floral-scented fiasco is so lifeless you can barely feel a pulse.
Does Tulip Fever feel like a precious bulb poorly nurtured? Primarily it comes across as something laboriously over-handled, and any flower so treated is bound to lose its luster. After waiting so long, the strongest fragrance on display is one of sweat and mediocrity.
It arrives not as a lusty tale in full bloom but as a tastefully arranged still life, in search of an animating spark.