tulip fever movie review

plot summary – tulip fever by justin chadwick

Tulip Fever is a good looking and undemanding feel good period movie, set in Amsterdam during the tulip mania of 1637. The sets are beautiful, particularly the interior of the merchant’s house with it’s richly textured walls and Dutch-style oriental carpeted trestle tables, and the costumes are similarly gorgeous. 

The film is based on the eponymous novel by Deborah Moggach and follows the story of the book closely with only minor variations. A rich middle aged Amsterdam merchant is desperate to have a male heir, and in pursuit of that end buys a beautiful young bride from an orphanage. What could go wrong? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the beautiful young bride plays along, but is soon attracted by a dashing young portrait painter commissioned by her husband to paint their portraits. 

Another excellent movie that plots the consequences of another rich man who uses his wealth to buy an attractive young bride is William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth.

a daring deal

She is unable to get pregnant, but as fate would have it their servant girl has the opposite problem, having become pregnant to the fishmonger and now as a result in danger of losing her job. The two do a daring deal – the beautiful young bride will pretend to be pregnant, and the servant will pretend not to be pregnant, they’ll swap the baby at birth and everyone’s problems have been solved. Simple. We watch the farce play out, and the pair almost get away with it..

the promise of instant fortunes

The second plot strand that is woven in with the baby farce is the speculative bubble that grew up in Amsterdam around tulip bulbs. The painter and fishmonger both succumb to the promise of instant fortunes to be made by investing money in tulip bulbs, to sell them almost instantly at a large profit. For a time both grow rich, but both end up back where they started when one gets robbed and the other suffers during the inevitable market crash, and is let down by his mate – played by the bearded guy in the Hangover movies – who mistakes a rare tulip bulb he’s been entrusted with for an onion… and eats it. Did no one see the Hangover movies? 

love affairs

And the third plot strand are the love affairs between the young bride and the painter, and the servant and the fishmonger.

You’ll be glad to hear that everything ends well. All of the characters what they want, even if not in the manner they were expecting. 

tulip fever movie review

The movie reminds me a bit of The Girl With a Pearl Earring – similar period, and the lead actress dresses and looks similar. And there’s a painter. Not a bad thing, I liked the Girl With a Pearl Earring too. My verdict – I’d give the movie 8/10 – very watchable, with some beautiful scenes and I particularly loved the performance of Christoph Waltz as the rich merchant… but then I love the performance of Christoph Waltz as anything, to be honest!