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Tulip Fever: My take on the movie starring Alicia Vikander, Dane Dehaan, Christoph Waltz, Holliday Grainger and Jack O'Connell #book2movies

Tulip Fever

An artist falls for a young married woman while he's commissioned to paint her portrait during the Tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam.

5 things I like about Tulip Fever

The film opens with Alicia Vikander, standing at the shore of the sea, surrounded by a massive sweep of sand and sky, much like a masterpiece from the Dutch Golden Age that 17th century Holland would come to be called. Her face sits on her impossibly long neck, like a tulip swaying tremulously on a slender stem. An apt portrait since the period, one of wealth, growth and opportunity in every aspect of life, was known too for what would come to be called tulip mania. The rabid buying and selling of tulips at increasingly inflated prices until something had to give and pop goes the bubble. It's a term still in use to describe a bubble about to burst by the financial market today. 

While it would be going too far to say I caught Tulip Fever, I found much to like and even love about the movie. 

One: A Comedy of Errors

In my take on the book I noted the story needed to be told more broadly, more humorously, like a Shakespearian comedy of errors and director Justin Chadwick working from a script by the acclaimed Tom Stoppard did just that. They made changes from Moggach's book, amping up the humor at every opportunity beginning with the key decision of casting Christoph Waltz as Alicia Vikander's (Sophia) older husband Cornelis. He was perfect, older but not decrepit or pathetic and he easily erased all the pity I felt for the old man in the book about being hoodwinked and cheated on. Waltz has such a snarky way about him and was so bombastic and pedantic—especially in the sex scenes where he has names for his member—that I found myself laughing out loud. 

Two: Chemistry

Alicia Vikander is lovely, of course, although she's at her best when she's allowed to finally be free and open with her sexuality instead of pent up, which makes her look a bit on the pinched, grey side. 

Especially when compared with Holliday Grainger (Sophia's housemaid, Maria) who almost steals the movie; her lushness, the chemistry Grainger shares with Jack O'Connell (her fishmonger beau Willem and another source of humor) just shines. That sexual chemistry shimmers in contrast to the dull, dutiful sex Sophia and Cornelis have to make do with. Dane DeHaan is lovely as the artist Jan Van Loos, sexy in his lean-limbed, dreamy artist way. While they aren't given as much time to indulge in the steamy physical passion of O'Connell and Grainger, what we do see sells it.

Three: Pathos & Pain

Waltz and Vikander are such fine actors that we come to appreciate the pathos of their situation. Sophia isn't in love with Cornelis, but she does care for him. He's been good to her in his fashion. We see how her desire for the artist—which will not be denied—tears her apart, and us in the process. 

Four: There's no such thing as a small part

Zach Galifianakis is not an actor I'd expect to find in a period film but he played his small part—that of a drunken fool—exceedingly well. Another Shakespearian touch. The always perfect Dame Judi Dench just is. What can I say, class will out. The rest of the cast includes Tom Hollander, wonderfully funny as the complicit Doctor Sorgh. Matthew Morrison is a friend of Jan Van Loos responsible for getting the artist his commission to paint Cornelis and Sophia — and who beds
Cara Delevingne, one of the rising new faces of film who plays "a little whore" (the film's description) and thief. I am ignorant on the question of people of color in Holland during the period but I noted the overqualified David Harewood (Homeland) in a small role as a tulip bulb seller for the Abbess played by Judi Dench and Rhoda Ofori-Attah as a nun. Can't remember if she even had a line.

Five: Ah, the look of it.

Shot by In Bruges director of photography Eigil Bryld, with production design by BAFTA winner Simon Elliott, and luscious, period perfect clothing from Oscar winning costume designer Michael O'Connor, every moment of the movie really is a visual feast. 

I was enchanted by the details like the painted furniture, the abbey and market place, the townspeople crowding the docks and canals, the neck ruffles and luscious fabrics worn by the well-to-do, the quirky headgear and cape worn by Maria. 

The storyline is a bit convoluted at times but taken like a Shakespeare comedy with all its' mistaken identities, disappearances and reappearances, works out well in the end. In fact, after one thing and another and another, all's well that ends well. 

For my money [$12.75 morning matinee at the Grove] one hour and forty seven minutes of compelling cinema.