By: Henry J. Fromage (Six Pack) –
Everyone knows the story of the production of Tulip Fever now- the delays and changes and recastings, postponed release date after release date, and the withering reviews that have ensued. I’m here to tell you it’s not as bad as you’ve heard- it’s so much worse.
Tulip Fever stars Dane DeHaan (poor Dane DeHaan) and Alicia Vikander (she’ll be just fine) as star-crossed lovers in late 1600s Amsterdam. Vikander’s husband is Christophe Waltz, so you know he’s an evil lecher/pious religious fanatic/dangerous schemer/hapless cuckold/who the fuck knows. Anyway he has… motivations? And those motivations are probably dangerous. There’s also Holiday Grainger as Vikander’s housemaid who gets pregnant by fishmonger Jack O’Connell but due to misunderstandings he’s forced to join the Navy for a year and Vikander and Grainger have to pretend like it’s really Vikander who’s pregnant and all the while the city is going mad for tulips husbanded by Mother Superior/Tulip Mafioso Judi Dench/leading to an economic bubble about to burst and also Zach Galifianikis is like on screen, but in an entirely different movie consistent with Zach Galifianakis circa 2014 when this was shot and also Cara Delevingne is a dirty thieving whore- no, that’s not criticism- she just is (in the movie, I don’t know her, but she seems nice).
Got all that?
As you may have heard from some critics that may also be your Grandma (they’re actually your Grandma- collectively, Voltron-style. Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to), Tulip Fever does feature very handsome production values.
I shouldn’t be the one to have to tell you, but this is not a normal Thanksgiving.
We’ll get to it, but if Harvey Weinstein had just left things the fuck alone he might have gotten a token wardrobe or hair & makeup Oscar nomination out of this (but rest assured, not now). Also, Judi Dench hisses at a little orphan child in her path. I doubt it was scripted. It’s the best part of the whole film.
The editing can be characterized only as a hit job. There’s is absolutely no way this is the film the talent involved originally delivered. I will eat my hat if Justin Chadwick didn’t deliver a first cut well over two hours, that, judging from the mix of tones on display here (more on that later), probably wasn’t very good, but I’m positive would have been at least coherent. It’s clear that Harvey Scissorhands, for reasons unknown, decided he could “fix” the film in the editing room, and “fix” it he did.
Let me be clear, I’m sure no version of this footage would have been very good. The ludicrousness and hamfisted plots twists that overlay a supremely conventional backbone (or 2 or 3 supremely conventional backbones belonging to different species, actually) can be no doubt be laid at the feet of the script and presumably source material, which this cut hits all the high points of in ‘Plot Points in a Minute or Less!’
All of the different directions that the far too many creative voices in this production try to pull the film in result in a truly bizarre mix of tones. Sure, there’s the Diet Shakespeare mix of romance, melodrama, and tragedy that one set of trailers promised, but also the sensuality and arch tone of a more “modern” take on the same material that another did. However, there’s also pure atheist farce butting up against a devoutly religious morality play, and explicit sex and the grandma-pandering Thomas Kincaid-lit happy endings, and whatever buffoonery poor Zach Galifianakis is forced to do in his five minutes or so of screentime. It’s thrillingly schizophrenic.
The cut we get here is full of bizarre flourishes like the clearly added in post voiceover which switches perspectives once in awhile and sets up that unbelievably cheesy cop-out of an ending. My favorite example is when more bizarre voiceover very deliberately and ham-handedly reminds us Waltz is a whoremonger before a complete character resurrection minutes later.
Again, there was probably at least a little nuance in the book and the original cut of the film, although some scenes belie that, like the one where the tulip loses a petal after the first time Vikander cheats with DeHaan seconds after Waltz calls her ‘innocent’. Whatever the case- not anymore.
No, I’ve never heard of Girl With a Pearl Earring. Why do you ask?
This can’t even rightly be called a film. It flew through scenes so quickly and with such a minimum of connective tissue or breathing room at first that I halfway suspected this was an elaborate practical joke and the film would be over after 30 minutes. Instead, it became clear there was just way to much plot to fit into a standard hour forty-five, and Harvey would be damned if he cut any of it, but equally damned if he released anything longer than the average length of a theatrical release. By the end the utter failure to commit to a perspective or establish consistent characterizations superseded all of that.
This version of Tulip Fever is a Cliff’s Notes of a mediocre novel that was optioned before it was even written, and very likely of whatever film Justin Chadwick first handed over, hack-sawed into the hilarious travesty it is today. Harvey Weinstein delivered a film that somehow is even worse than the red flags he’s been throwing on it for years. It’s really quite glorious.
Tulip Fever is an early contender for worst film of the year- a Frankenstein’s Monster of hubris and producer overreach that should be a warning to anyone looking to work with Harvey Weinstein again.
Tulip Fever (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever you can’t stifle a laugh at the naked obviousness of an edit.
Take a Drink: for each Zach Galifianakis scene. Poor fuck.
Take a Drink: for sex scenes apropos of just about nothing.
Take a Drink: for fascinating discussions of the tulip market. Who’s being sarcastic? No- you are!
Take a Drink: for Vermeer knock-offs.
Take a Drink: for plot twists that lead to plot hip dislocations.
Do a Shot: when Judi Dench hisses at a child. She’s a goddam treasure.
Do a Shot: for the careers of Justin Chadwick, Jack O’Connell, and Dane DeHaan, which all took a stiff one right in the nuts.
*If you’re in need of a good laugh, Google ‘awful taxidermy’ sometime. Thank me later.