A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tulip Fever is a disappointing period tale based on a novel by Deborah Moggach. It's sort of about the "tulip boom" of the 17th century, but that story is sidelined in favor of a not-very-interesting bedroom drama. Sexual content is very mature, with several graphic sex scenes. There's also nudity (breasts and bottoms), as well as nude drawings and paintings, groping, kissing, touching, and some innuendo and sex talk. Language includes a few uses of "damn," "bitch," and "whore." A dead body is fished out of the water, and there's a bar fight, as well as some shouting and arguing. One character gets very drunk in one scene, and there's some smoking. Alicia Vikander and Dane DeHaan co-star.
What's the story?
In TULIP FEVER, orphan Sophia (Alicia Vikander) is sent to become the wife of widower Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz). Their efforts to have a child prove fruitless, but Cornelis commissions a painting of them, hiring artist Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan) to do it. Jan falls in love with Sophia, and they begin an affair. Meanwhile, Cornelis and Sophia's housekeeper, Maria (Holliday Grainger), is secretly seeing the fishmonger, Willem (Jack O'Connell), who's started investing in the ballooning tulip market in order to earn enough money to marry Maria. When Willem is shipped off to the navy and Maria turns up pregnant, Sophia cooks up a plan. But it involves Jan attempting to turn Willem's abandoned tulips into a pile of cash.
Is it any good?
This tone-deaf costume drama takes a preposterous story and tells it clumsily, with strange choices all around and most of the plot turns either confusing or silly. Based on Deborah Moggach's novel and shelved for well over a year, Tulip Fever is supposedly about the fascinating, real-life tulip craze of the 17th century, when people paid fortunes for bulbs. But the movie's focus, unfortunately, ends up more on the characters and their crazy, sitcom-level schemes, which require characters to be either stupid or naïve.
Whenever any of these characters charge off into the next part of the story, they seem totally oblivious to what's about to happen -- when it's painfully obvious to the rest of us. For example, Zach Galifianakis co-stars as a kind of simple, drunken sidekick to DeHaan's character, and when he's charged with an important errand, the results are glumly inevitable. Yet the movie tries to generate both humor and suspense, badly, from the scene. Director Justin Chadwick, whose work on previous films The Other Boleyn Girl and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom was equally clueless, never seems to know where to put his camera or how to move it; the resulting movie is a mess of moods and tones that fails in its logic, suspense, humor, and everything else.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tulip Fever's sexual content. How is it presented? Is it gratuitous? Does it illustrate love or jealousy? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Do you consider any of the characters role models? Why or why not?
What did you learn from the movie about the tulip craze of the 17th century? In what way does it resemble the "bubble" economy of more recent times?
What's the appeal of period/historical movies? How does this one compare to others you've seen?
- In theaters: September 1, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: November 28, 2017
- Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Christoph Waltz
- Director: Justin Chadwick
- Studio: The Weinstein Company
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Arts and dance, Book characters, History
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content and nudity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.