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« In Which We Destroy Virtually Every Tulip We See »

Married Without Kids


Tulip Fever
dir. Justin Chadwick
107 minutes

The first moment that Sophia (Alicia Vikander) sees Jan (Dane DeHaan), she is overcome with a latent eroticism that will haunt her for the remainder of her days. Her husband Cornelis (Christoph Waltz) is completely oblivious to this; and he is substantially more interested in the idea of infecting Sophia with a parasite that will ruin her body and mind. Unfortunately, Sophia is unable to get pregnant in Tulip Fever, and the movie is about how crazy this drives her, and how useless she feels because of it.

In metaphorical sympathy for his new, married girlfriend's plight, Jan becomes obsessed with making his fortune in the fledgling tulip industry. On a scale of one to ten, how excited would you say the idea of a fast-paced tulip auction is to you? How about if it were written by Tom Stoppard? The executives behind Tulip Fever have taken more than five years to refine this subdued film into something more exciting than the sum of its parts.

Its parts consist of short, abbreviated sex scenes where moisture is cast over Vikander's taut, dark body to imitate the throes of ecstasy. Vikander and DeHaan look substantially younger than they have in more recent roles, reminding us of how disastrous a person's twenties can be. Vikander is forced to be rather muted and boring as this long-suffering wife, but she is already expert at this put-upon role. DeHaan seems substantially more excited in his scenes with Zach Galifianakis than when he is penetrating Alicia, and his relative lack of enthusiasm with Vikander's character seems to subtly imply his homosexuality.

Disappointingly and predictably, there is absolutely nothing in the way of happily ever after in this film, which is just as well, since it is shaping up to be a tragic failure at the box office. Since you will likely never be seeing Tulip Fever, I can tell that Alicia Vikander fakes her own death rather than continue to be raped by Christoph Waltz. This is perhaps just as well, since her affair with DeHaan seems like the bargaining any victim does after a sexual assault.

This does pose the question of what Alicia Vikander would look like if she actually seemed to give a fig. Fortunately this has been asked and answered in the substantially better version of Tulip Fever called The Light Between Oceans. You would honestly be forgiven for thinking this 2016 jaunt wasn't the same movie as Tulip Fever, the key difference being that Michael Fassbender was fresh off Shame and even the tips of his finger signified for penises at that time. The guy was electric in everything then.

DeHaan looks like a little boy seducing a thirty-year-old instead of an actually talented painter. His scenes with Christoph Waltz never come to very much; the older man is simply hiring the most talented, cheapest painter he can find. Waltz is very comfortable in his sociopath mode, except it turns out that he is simply a well-meaning sort of man who forces his wife into sex. This bizarre rationalization makes Tulip Fever into a somewhat cynical portrait of the depravity people accept into their lives without even meaning to.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.

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