Urban Cinefile
"For the most part it's a really prissy sort of poncy job. It's got nothing to do with why you wanted to do it when you were 14 or something - when I wanted to be a spy or an assassin or something."  -Noah Taylor on acting
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday February 1, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In 17th century Amsterdam, an orphaned girl Sophia (Alicia Vikander) is the arranged and unhappy bride of a rich and powerful merchant, Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz) saving her from poverty. When her husband commissions her portrait, she begins a passionate affair with the painter Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan), a struggling young artist. Seeking to escape the merchant's ever-reaching grasp, the lovers risk everything and enter the frenzied tulip bulb market, with the hope that the right bulb will make a fortune and buy their freedom.

Review by Louise Keller:
Beauty, passion and tulips are the themes of this rich and enjoyable foray into 17th century Amsterdam where the riches of the purse, the heart and the bedroom are at odds. It's about forbidden love in a gorgeous setting, along with a myriad of subplots that form a tapestry of drama with comedic elements. In fact the film's light and shade comes from its varied tone that occasionally pushes it into the territory of farce. Based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) weaves all the elements together nicely, while a top-drawer cast spins its magic.

The cast is delicious offering a smorgasbord of flavours and textures. If I have a reservation, it is about the casting of Dane DeHaan as the penniless portrait painter commissioned to immortalise on canvas Christoph Waltz's well-to-do merchant, Cornelis Sandvoort and his prize wife Sophia (Alicia Vikander). Looking like a young Leonardo diCaprio, DeHaan lacks the required sexual charisma to convince as the object of the gorgeous Vikander's desire. The seduction scene is like a dance, capturing all the beauty, innocence and purity of the two lovers, but had passion been injected, we might have been left breathless. Tom Hollander is a scene-stealer as Dr Sorgh, whose actions are as outrageous as the good doctor's morals.

Waltz is always good but his performance here surprises and impresses - by its subtlety and wistfulness. Vikander is perfectly cast as the beautiful Sophia, whose marriage saves her from a life of poverty. Gratitude is a burden to carry. But the story does not rest with this relationship triangle. Holliday Grainger lands the plum role of Sophia's maid/companion - the film's narrator - who in turn loves the local fishmonger (Jack O'Connell). Their passion sizzles and yes, she buys fish for dinner once too often. And then, there is Judi Dench, splendid as the wily Abbess with a green thumb and ruthless business sense. Screenwriter Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) manages the at-times Shakespearean material with wit and aplomb, while Danny Elfman's score is as playful as the plot lines.

Don't always believe the consensus - the film has been met with considerable criticism - about its reality, setting and predictability. Its release was also delayed - for many reasons. As a Weinstein picture, it might have once been elevated into award consideration.

But what of the tulips, you may ask? The tulip fever of the title refers to the obsession for the bulbs that conceal the promise of rare beauty and instant wealth in bidding frenzies. I love the fact that we are immersed totally in the film's rich reality, making it a sweet bouquet, whose fragrance lingers.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(UK/US, 2017)

CAST: Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Christoph Waltz, Judi Dench, Jack O'Connell, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander, Matthew Morrison, Kevin McKidd, Douglas Hodge, Joanna Scanlan, Zach Galifianakis, David Harweood, Alexandra Gilbreath, Cara Delevingne

PRODUCER: Alison Owen

DIRECTOR: Justin Chadwick

SCRIPT: Deborah Moggach, Tom Stoppard (novel by Moggach)


EDITOR: Rick Russell

MUSIC: Danny Elfman


RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 23, 2017

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020