Tulip Fever (2017)
January 10, 2023 8:25 PM - Subscribe

In seventeenth-century Amsterdam, a young married woman, her older husband, her housemaid, the housemaid's lover, a young artist, and a no-nonsense abbess become embroiled in a rollicking series of events involving portrait painting, strenuous efforts to conceive, an unwanted pregnancy, unwarranted assumptions, spur of the moment life decisions, and a volatile tulip trading market.

Background Information

Tulip Fever is a 2017 historical romantic drama film directed by Justin Chadwick and written by Deborah Moggach and Tom Stoppard, adapted from Moggach's 1999 novel of the same name. It stars an ensemble cast featuring Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Jack O'Connell, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander, Matthew Morrison, Kevin McKidd, Douglas Hodge, Joanna Scanlan, Zach Galifianakis, Judi Dench, and Christoph Waltz. The plot follows a 17th-century "tulip mania" painter in Amsterdam who falls in love with a married woman whose portrait he has been commissioned to paint.

Filmed in the summer of 2014, Tulip Fever was delayed numerous times before finally being released in the United States on 1 September 2017. It received generally unfavourable reviews from critics and grossed $9 million worldwide against its $25 million budget. This was also the last film to be theatrically released by The Weinstein Company, which filed for bankruptcy following a series of sexual assault cases against co-founder Harvey Weinstein.

Critical Response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 10% based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Tulip Fever is a lush, handsomely-mounted period piece undone by uninspired dialogue and excessive plotting." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized average rating to reviews, the film has an average score of 38 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".

Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 1 star out of 4, saying, "Tulip Fever, which was shot in 2014 but only hitting theatres now after years of re-cutting, retooling and release-date reshuffling, should have been allowed to die on the vine [...] The film just sits there onscreen like a wilting flower with nothing to nourish it."

In December 2018, it was released in several cinemas across the UK. It was reviewed by Adam White of The Daily Telegraph, as "handsome yet cripplingly dull Tulip Fever is every bit a throwback to that age of Chocolat and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin" and it suffers from "clumsy post-production work".


When DreamWorks set up the original Tulip Fever production in 2004, they had built a massive set of the Amsterdam canals, and planted twelve thousand tulips. Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Jim Broadbent were all set to star until the plug was pulled just 12 days before shooting as a result of changes in tax rules affecting movie production in the U.K.

The actor who plays Dr. Sorgh is Tom Hollander. Ironically, Hollander is a Dutch term for Dutchmen. This is, however, not completely valid. "Hollander" refers to someone who comes from Holland. Holland isn't, in contrast to what many people think, The Netherlands. In fact, only two of the 12 provinces in The Netherlands are called Holland: Noord-Holland (North-Holland) and Zuid-Holland (South-Holland). In the Golden Age of The Netherlands, Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland were the most wealthy provinces in The Netherlands, because the most important cities are situated in those provinces (think about Amsterdam, Leiden, The Hague). Because of this, people started to call The Netherlands "Holland," because they only went to the Holland provinces.


Maria: [narrating] Before you were born, Amsterdam was captivated by a flower: the tulip. They came from far away in the East and were so rare and beautiful that people lost their senses in wanting to own them. Rich and poor were spending and borrowing money to join the trade in bulbs, which were going up in price all the time. None more so than the rare striped tulips that were called breakers. A new breaker came from nowhere like an act of God, and it changed people's lives. A white flower with a God-given crimson stripe turned our lives upside down, mine and my mistress Sophia's.

Mrs. Overvalt: A woman who's been married three years needs to keep herself... interesting. Or life will become dulled.

Mrs Overvalt: With an older man like Cornelis, a likeness might be too much of a good thing.

Jan Van Loos: That's the color of blue the Italian masters used for the mother of Jesus. Do you know why they dressed the Virgin in blue?
Sophia: Because it's the color of purity.
Jan Van Loos: Because it's the color which cost the most. Oltremarino. Blue from over the sea. From a blue stone mined in one place only and far away.

Cornelis Sandvoort: First to flower, first to fall.

Abbess: Who are you?
Jan Van Loos: My name is Jan Van Loos, I'm an artist. I'm in love with a woman who loves me. I have no money. I can't think of anything else to say about me, except that I'm very sorry.
Abbess: Evidently, not a very good artist.
Jan Van Loos: I think I am becoming good.

Abbess: [to Jan] Mr. Prater tells me you've been busy. He doesn't mean painting. You're losing your bloom and, unlike tulips, yours will not be renewed in the spring.

Abbess: Never underestimate God. He forgets nothing.

Maria: Stories don't end. They only go their separate ways. We take leave of them. Not knowing what comes after.
posted by orange swan (1 comment total)
Despite the critics sniffing about the excessive plotting, I thought the twists and turns of this movie hung together fairly well and made for a fun ride in which all the characters are struggling to keep their lives from going to hell.

The sets and costumes were great, and the cast was pretty good. Alicia Vikander was solid in the lead role, as was Christoph Waltz and Tom Holland, and Judi Dench was great, but the actor who played Jan Van Loos was something of a nonentity and I didn't buy Sophia's finding him irresistible. I can't help regretting that the version with Natalie Portman and Jude Law was never made.

The scene with Tom Holland as the, er, fertility specialist, was very funny and that was probably the best timed comedic slap I've ever seen. Sophia and Maria's improvising their way through their pregnancy charade made for some decent slapstick. The moment when Cornelis finds out the truth about his wife and child was well played, and I appreciated the nuance of him turning out to be a genuinely good man who had simply been oblivious to the fact that his young wife didn't love him as he loved her, and who acted with great generosity and nobility despite the devastation he felt because he realized the primary mistake had been his.
posted by orange swan at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2023

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