Movie Review: "Tulip Fever"
Sophia (Alicia Vikander) was orphaned as a child and raised to adulthood by a community of nuns. She ends up catching the eye of a rich older man—named Cornelius Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz)—who buys Sophia from the orphanage, so that she can be his beautiful young wife and potentially give him and heir. Within Cornelius' home, Sophia meets his maid—named Maria (Holiday Grainger)—who is in a romantic relationship with a fish delivery boy and becomes pregnant. Sophia also finds herself in a love triangle between Cornelius, a hired painter (Dane DeHaan), and herself.
She wants to be with the painter, so a plan is conceived in an attempt to give everyone what they want. This all takes place at the peak of tulip fever. Due to their rarity, tulip bulbs are bought, sold, and gambled on in the black market. Sophia has her plan, but the local obsession with this rare flower has become intertwined with all of their fates.
The Pros & Cons
Alicia Vikander (+5pts)
Sex & Nudity (-2pts)
Christoph Waltz (+4pts)
Tulip Fever (-10pts)
Dane DeHaan (+3pts)
Sophia's Guilt (-5pts)
Pro: Alicia Vikander (+5pts)
Alicia Vikander, in her short career, has already proven herself to be a great addition to any film she is in. Does her presence automatically mean that a movie will be great? Of course not, but she is talented enough to make her movies far better than they would have been without her. This movie is no different.
Her character in this movie was pretty complex, as she felt grateful toward Cornelius (Christoph Waltz), but she still did not want to be with him. I thought Alicia Vikander did a great job of capturing her character's compassion toward Cornelius. She was not attracted to him, did not want to be with him, but he was kind and—on some level—she cared about him. There was a lot of depth to Sophia, and Alicia Vikander did a great job of capturing that.
Con: Sex & Nudity (-2pts)
There was quite a bit of sex and nudity in this film. It did not hurt the film too much, but it felt very unnecessary. It was a shame that sex and nudity was given so much screen time, while the plot got so little focus. There were a couple of relationships shown in this film, and both were given plenty of sex scenes.
These scenes were not long, but they were abundant and they were redundant. Sex scenes are fine and can add to a story. However, if your movie is already struggling to give enough focus to a complex plot, then sex scenes should be implied instead of shown. Instead, it seemed like the filmmakers tried to use sex and nudity as a way to distract the viewer from their weak plot.
Pro: Christoph Waltz (+4pts)
As should be no surprise, Christoph Waltz was great in this movie. His character—Cornelius—basically bought Alicia Vikander's character to be his bride. It was kind of a messed up situation, so—naturally—my instinct was to vilify Cornelius. However, Christoph Waltz—through a great, charismatic performance—was able to turn my opinion around. He added comedy and heart, which made it easy to sympathize with his character. He was also flawed and had made bad decisions, but he was—at his core—good. I believe Christoph Waltz did a fantastic job of bringing all of that to the screen.
Con: Tulip Fever (-10pts)
The biggest problem with this movie was the plot. There were two main stories happening in this film. Both were somewhat related to one another, so the filmmakers attempted to tell both. Unfortunately, the filmmakers did not give either storyline the focus it needed. During the film, a character was shown as being in a romantic relationship, getting pregnant, going through pregnancy, and having the baby. That should give you a sense of how much time this movie tried to cover.
While the pregnancy was happening, a sort of “Tulip Fever” had obsessed much of the public. The rare flowers were bought and sold on the black market. During the film, you see the height of the tulip obsession as well as how quickly something like that can die out. There was so much story to tell in both of these storylines. The filmmakers did a good job of showing how intertwined these stories were, but did a poor job of giving either story the focus it needed.
Pro: Dane DeHaan (+3pts)
Dane DeHaan is a good actor that has been in his fair share of disappointing films. Dane DeHaan was not the problem in those films, but they were disappointing nonetheles. Unfortunately, Tulip Fever was no different.
Dane DeHaan played a struggling yet passionate artist who was hired to paint Cornelius and his young wife, Sophia. The artist was then awestruck by Sophia's beauty and the rest was history—so to speak. Dane DeHaan did a decent job playing this character. He nailed the awestruck obsession, as well as the inner conflict that the obsession caused. This movie had its problems, but Dane DeHaan was far from one of them.
Con: Sophia's Guilt (-5pts)
Sophia was a very complicated character. More accurately, her feelings toward Cornelius and the artist were what made her so complicated. On one hand, she was resentful of the fact that she was purchased to marry an older man she did not love. On the other hand, she was grateful to him for giving her a home as well as treating her with absolute kindness. This was so compelling because we obviously—in the 21st century—know that buying people is wrong. However, with Sophia, we saw a character that appreciated being bought by this man, and we understand why. I understand these complicated feelings, but I thought the film did a poor job of focusing on that aspect of Sophia’s story.
For the majority of the film, Sophia's intentions seemed set in stone. There was no apparent uncertainty in this character until the end of the film. All of a sudden she changed her mind, and that switch just did not work for me. It was brilliantly acted by Alicia Vikander, but there was not enough that supported Sophia's sudden change of heart. When a scene has so much impact on the end of a film, the scene has to be properly supported by the story that led up to it. That, unfortunately, was not the case for Sophia's guilt.
Grade: C- (70pts)
This movie had very good actors giving very good performances, but that is where the strengths seemed to end. Alicia Vikander played the conflicting feelings of Sophia with flawless execution. Christoph Waltz did a great job of adding depth to what very easily could have been a one-note antagonist. Dane DeHaan did a good job of playing a passionate artist, whose passion was put to the test when he fell in love with one of his subjects.
Unfortunately, the film had a lot of problems—most of which came from a lack of focus and trying to do too much with too little time. This movie had a love triangle between Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, and Dane DeHaan's characters. The film also had a romance between Cornelius' maid and a fish delivery man. The film also told the story of the tulip obsession during the time period in which this story took place. The filmmakers intertwined these three storylines, while failing to give any the focus that they deserved. Trying to cram all three storylines in one movie made the story feel cluttered, and not properly focusing on any storyline caused all three storylines to feel shallow and underdeveloped. This was not a terrible movie, but I certainly did not enjoy it.