Arts

Film: Tulip Fever a cornucopia of rumpy pumpy that should have been left on the shelf

Alicia Vikander in Tulip Fever – a curiously restrained performance
Damon Smith

FILMED in the summer of 2014 before lead actress Alicia Vikander deservedly won her Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl, director Justin Chadwick's lust-fuelled period romp has been wilting on a film studio shelf for more than three years.

Harvey Weinstein's involvement as a producer can't be blamed for the delay. Tulip Fever is a turgid, lifeless adaptation of Deborah Moggach's novel, which fails to bloom on the big screen despite some half-hearted propagation from director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) and his starry international cast.

Not even Dame Judi Dench, pursing her lips beneath a wimple, can inject life into a plodding, water-logged narrative in which a lowly fisherman brandishes a basket of pungent goods and tantalises one potential customer by boasting, "I've got a nice thick eel," with a straight face. Codswallop, more like.

Moggach's script, co-written by Tom Stoppard, is incapable of generating dramatic momentum and the multiple deceptions of the conclusion teeter precariously on the cusp of an unintentional comedy of errors.

Production design and costumes are impressive, captured in sweeping camera shots over and around a bustling quayside, and Danny Elfman's orchestral score plucks the heartstrings when the cast is unable to oblige.

Orphan Sophia (Vikander) is raised by the nuns of St Ursula in mid-17th century Amsterdam at a time when the most precious and widely traded commodity is tulip bulbs.

She reluctantly accepts a marriage proposal from wealthy merchant Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz), who will pay safe passage for Sophia's relatives to live in New Amsterdam in exchange for a male heir.

Sophia initially fails to excite her husband's "dozy little soldier" and her inability to become pregnant necessitates a hurried visit to local quack Dr Sorgh (Tom Hollander).

Cornelis commissions local artist Jan van Loos (Dane DeHaan) to paint a portrait of his blissful union and the painter falls deliriously under the spell of virginal Sophie.

Meanwhile, housemaid Maria (Holliday Grainger) enjoys a lustful romance with local fisherman Willem (Jack O'Connell).

When Maria discovers she is pregnant out of wedlock, Sophia hatches a cunning plan to solve both of their predicaments.

Tulip Fever is a bouquet of missed opportunities that should have been left on that shelf to moulder indefinitely.

A cornucopia of rumpy pumpy – almost every inch of Vikander is on softly lit display –can't distract from her curiously restrained performance. By contrast, Waltz exposes the vulnerability and sadness of his "lucky old dog", enriching a potentially two-dimensional villain far more than Chadwick's impotent film merits.

TULIP FEVER (15, 105 mins) Drama/Romance. Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Holliday Grainger, Jack O'Connell, Dame Judi Dench, Tom Hollander. Director: Justin Chadwick.

RATING: 4/10

Released: December 7 (UK & Ireland)

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