TULIP FEVER review

Yay! Something with Alicia Vikander!

TULIP FEVER is based on a novel by the same name. It looks like it’s about a young woman who is practically bought into a marriage with an older, wealthier man who seems to love how beautiful and young she is, as opposed to loving her for her. Eventually, there’s this craze over a particular tulip that everyone wants, that I can only assume this rich old dude gets, and a young and talented artist is hired to make a painting. However, the artist and the young woman fall in love and so begins some Jerry Springer shit. It looks… meh. The aesthetic itself is pretty gorgeous, as well as the costumes, but it looks like it’s going to get needlessly complicated. I have no real evidence to show for it, but these period dramas are always about power and status, and I feel like I’ve seen enough of those. But hey, Alicia Vikander!

Here’s the cast. Did I mention this movie stars Alicia Vikander? She’s known for THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (2016), EX-MACHINA (2015), BURNT (2015), and the upcoming TOMB RAIDER (2018). Also starring, we have Dane DeHaan (VALERIAN [2017], A CURE FOR WELLNESS [2017], and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 [2014]) and Christoph Waltz (THE LEGEND OF TARZAN [2016], SPECTRE [2015], THE GREEN HORNET [2011], and the upcoming ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL [2018]). In support, we have Judi Dench (MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN [2016], CASINO ROYALE [2006], SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE [1998], and upcoming films VICTORIA AND ABDUL [2017] and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017]), Cara Delevingne (VALERIAN, SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], and PAPER TOWNS [2015]), Zack Galifianakis (LEGO BATMAN [2017], KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES [2016], and THE CAMPAIGN [2012]), Holliday Grainger (MY COUSIN RACHEL [2017], THE FINEST HOURS [2016], and CINDERELLA [2015]), and Tom Hollander (THE PROMISE [2017], MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION [2015], PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST [2006], and upcoming films BREATHE [2017] and THE JUNGLE BOOK [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Justin Chadwick, known for THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (2008). Co-writing the script is Tom Stoppard (ANNA KARENINA [2012], SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, EMPIRE OF THE SUN [1987], and the upcoming A CHRISTMAS CAROL, no release date announced) and author of the novel itself, Deborah Moggach (PRIDE & PREJUDICE [2005]). Composing the score is *double take* Danny Elfman?! Did I ever write this down in my previous reviews?! Anywho, Elfman is known for FIFTY SHADES DARKER (2017), ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (2016), HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008), and upcoming films JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) and FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Eigil Bryld, known for IN BRUGES (2008) and the upcoming OCEAN’S EIGHT (2018).

Overall, yeah, I probably won’t care much about the movie itself. I just want Vikander to melt my heart. And maybe stab someone in some kind of climactic fight scene. I don’t know, I don’t care. Alicia Vikander! No, I don’t have a huge crush on Alicia Vikander! YOU have a crush on Alicia Vikander! Leave me alone!

This is my honest opinion of: TULIP FEVER

(SUMMARY)

Set in Amsterdam, circa 1634 during the tulip mania. Sophia (Alicia Vikander) is bought from her orphanage into a marriage with the wealthy Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz), and is basically tasked with birthing a child, with no results. Eventually, Cornelis commissions a young painter named Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan) who quickly falls in love with Sophia, and falls for him in turn, and they start to have an affair.

(REVIEW)

Oh man. With the vast amounts of reviews that I’ve been belting out recently, I’m surprised I made it this far with knowing what to say. No joke, I have to look at my notes to even remember how I felt about this movie. Er… probably not a good sign.

Ah ha, upon reviewing my said notes, that’s probably one of the reasons why I didn’t connect with this movie as well as I’d hoped. It’s a slow churn. The opening of this movie is a history lesson about the tulip mania, which isn’t bad in itself. It’s a little slice of history that I can imagine is overlooked in standard history books. But then once the actual story, you know, the characters and their problems, the whole tulip mania thing feels either like an afterthought, or a second story that doesn’t connect well with the actual story.

It also doesn’t help that between Sophia’s purchase as Cornelis’ wife, nothing really happens for a good twenty minutes. It’s mostly a bunch of him pissing into a bucket in the corner, calling his dick “his little soldier,” and him unable to properly climax when having sex with her. Granted, there’s some fair character connections between Sophia and Maria (Holliday Grainger), whom is only treated like a servant by Cornelis, rather than Sophia who treats her like a friend.

Speaking of which, this is another problem I have with the film. Increasingly over the last few years, I’ve had a huge problem with narrators. They’re utilized grossly incorrectly by explaining things that explain themselves in the visuals. It was fine when it was explaining the tulip mania, but outside of that, the narrator, an older Maria, never shuts the hell up after that. She’s explaining everything that doesn’t need explanation. We can read the expressions of the characters and perfectly understand their motivations just fine, thank you very much. So the movie does sadly talk down to the audience, thinking we’re too stupid to interpret the characters accurately ourselves. I think at some point the narration stops, or decreases in appearance, but in the end, it takes way too long for it to get there. And why is it important for Maria to be narrating the story?! If the movie is technically in her perspective, how does she know the details of Sophia and Jan’s affair? Or even Jan’s later activities? None of this really adds up.

The movie isn’t all bad, mind you. There does feel like there’s stakes in the beginning. We learn that because Cornelis and Sophia have been trying to conceive for awhile and he’s giving her six more months to get knocked up before he sends her back to the orphanage. Also, the art department needs a damn Oscar nom because these sets are absolutely breath-taking. Of course, Vikander and Waltz are both wonderful, DeHaan isn’t bad, Grainger is certainly a show-stealer, the performances are all around very good, which does occasionally distract from the plot points that get forced.

For example, the whole story is basically Sophia having an affair on Cornelis with Jan, but their relationship is so sudden. Quite literally, Sophia walks downstairs in a pretty blue dress and WHAMO! he’s in love. But fine, a dude’s pants get a little tighter when he sees a hot chick, that’s nothing new, men are pigs, I get that. But what’s her excuse? The sudden romantic exchange is so sudden that they never have time time to actually develop feelings beyond the superficial. Thankfully, the two have some pretty good chemistry the rest of the movie, but the launching point is too lame for my taste.

***SPOILERS***

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And let’s talk about the remainder of this movie. So the rest of the plot is basically this: Maria had an affair with a local fish peddler. He suddenly left thinking the cloaked woman making out with Jan was Maria, when in fact it was Sophia. Maria ended up getting pregnant, which would mean a great disgrace to her and probably lose her job. But Sophia hatches an idea: make it seem like it’s Sophia that’s pregnant with Cornelis’ child, make her look pregnant for as long as Maria is pregnant, and when she gives birth, pass off the child as Sophia’s, fake her own death so she can be with Jan, and Maria will be free to raise her own child at no risk to her employment.

This plan should be destined to fail, but it works almost perfectly by the end of the movie, which is… just, no. First off, faking Sophia’s pregnancy isn’t too hard, but how would hiding Maria’s pregnancy work? She shows! Her pregnancy is obvious! This plan should have been a bust eventually, but somehow that hasn’t been the case. Second, I take it back, faking Sophia’s pregnancy should be hard too because married couples have sex when the woman’s pregnant all the time! You can’t convince me that a Lord like Cornelis would just accept her rules of both not sleeping with her and not even being able to touch her pregnant belly. At some point within the nine months of Maria’s pregnancy, he would have to have seen Sophia’s flesh at some point, simply from demand. He even remarks during the birthing scene that she refused his touch for several months. RED FLAGS, YOU DUMB ASS!!! Hell, these are the only two reasons that come to mind. I’m sure there’s a shit load of others too.

But wait, it only gets worse. When the Maria’s baby-daddy returns to confront her and discovers the truth of what he saw, Cornelis overhears her conversation with him and realizes the truth of everything as well, the affair, the pregnancy plot, everything, he leaves a note for Maria in daze. You want to know what that note said? “I forgive you, I’m leaving Amsterdam, I give you all of my riches, good luck.” Yeah, so he found out his wife’s baby wasn’t really theirs, she had an affair with the painter, all for the better part of a year… and he forgives them and leaves them everything

Moral of the story, y’all, lie to and cheat on your rich husbands and he’ll leave his entire wealth to your B.F.F.!!! Don’t act like it never happened to you!

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I can’t claim this to be a good movie. The characters themselves are fine and pretty likable, hence the acting is good, and the costumes and set designs are amazing to say the least. So it’s, at best, a pretty film to look at. But the character’s choices and story’s logic are such nonsense that you’d swear this script was a first draft and the filmmakers just rolled with it. While I certainly don’t hate the film, I honestly can’t recommend it in theaters. I might recommend it as a rental, but viewer beware.

My honest rating for TULIP FEVER: a weak 3/5

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MY COUSIN RACHEL review

How is this movie rated PG-13?! It’s cousins having sex, getting married, and possibly killing each other! What the hell?! Fine, whatever! Different time period, different location!

So news to me, this is actually based on a book, which was adapted once before back in 1952. To my understanding though, the incest was heavily cut down to near-nonexistent. I guess that’s why this movie was made: to faithfully adapt the novel this was based on. But really… were we really clamoring for this? Oh well.

To be fair, before seeing this, I was only interested because… “My Cousin Rachel”… starring Rachel Weisz? There were jokes waiting to be made! But this was a serious and dark kind of story and cousin-on-cousin screwing aside, it didn’t look… awful per se. In fact, elements were intriguing. The movie was about this married couple and the husband passes away. Our main hero suspects that his cousin Rachel was responsible. However, upon meeting her, he becomes infatuated with her and begins to fall hard… though she doesn’t seem to share the same feelings. Yup! It’s that kind of movie! Hence, why I was actually pretty excited for this. I could always afford to see a bat-shit crazy movie like this.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring, we obviously have Weisz (DENIAL [2016], CONSTANTINE [2005], and THE MUMMY [1999]) and Sam Claflin (THEIR FINEST [2017], ME BEFORE YOU [2016], and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES [2011], where he also played a character named Philip.). In support, we have Holliday Grainger (THE FINEST HOURS [2016], CINDERELLA [2015], and ANNA KARENINA [2012]) and Iain Glen (RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER [2017], EYE IN THE SKY [2016], and TV show GAME OF THRONES).

Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Roger Michell, known for HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012), MORNING GLORY (2010), and NOTTING HILL (1999). Composing the score is Rael Jones, known for a ton of short films and documentaries. Finally, the cinematographer is Mike Eley, known for NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS (2010) and a ton of short films and documentaries.

Overall, I’m sadistically looking forward to this. I love a fun and insane movie, so bring it on! Sanity’s overrated anyway.

This is my honest opinion of: MY COUSIN RACHEL

(SUMMARY)

Philip (Sam Claflin) was an orphan, until his older cousin adopted him and raised him as his own. After traveling afar, the cousin met up with a mutual cousin of theirs named Rachel (Rachel Weisz). The two married and before long, the cousin fell ill and eventually died, but not before sending a cryptic letter that seemed like he was in trouble and it’s later decided by Philip that Rachel is responsible for his death. Soon, he receives word that Rachel is visiting and Philip intends to confront her. However, when he meets her for the first time, he is immediately struck by her beauty and becomes increasingly convinced that she may not be what he initially thought and the two strike up a benign relationship… until he starts to develop feelings for her.

(REVIEW)

Hmm… it’s about as bat-shit as I thought it’d be… and yet, it wasn’t. It’s kind of weird.

Here’s what I mean, the movie is almost ripe to be self-parody, but the movie treats its own subject matter like it’s the norm. Suddenly, the cringing isn’t as strong because everyone has a nonchalant attitude toward cousins marrying and having sex. Again, I emphasize that I understand different times periods and places, so certain taboos today may not have been so taboo… whenever this movie takes place. I think that’s one of my initial pet peeves with this movie: the year is never specified. I mean, there’s horse-drawn carriages and not a single motorized vehicle ever makes an appearance, so… presumably pre-1880’s? I have no idea, y’all. But I guess the exact date doesn’t quite matter.

Let’s get some of the positives out of the way. The acting is quite good. Weisz is amazing in anything that she does, so she’s a class act here. And was she really speaking Italian? There’s a scene where she was speaking to an Italian character and she looked damn comfortable speaking it. Any who, Rachel is this woman who is clearly grieving over her dead husband slash cousin, but she constantly conducts herself as a pleasant and self-sufficient individual. She even vehemently protests when Philip secretly gives her an allowance, claiming that it makes her look like a beggar and that she’s only there for his money, which isn’t the case. But she is a sweet woman who cares deeply for her cousin and eventually cares for him in all the wrong ways.

Philip is… another story entirely, and I quite honestly don’t know how to feel about him. At first, his actions and motivations seem like they make sense. Who wouldn’t have guessed from the ramblings from the cousin that Rachel was responsible for his death? However, from the moment he met Rachel, I’m somewhat lost. I know the implication is that Rachel is so damn attractive that he’s totally entranced by her beauty, therefore forgets to question the death of his cousin. So the story essentially loses focus because… THE POWER OF BONERS CANNOT BE DENIED!!!

Now I’m not entirely sure if the rest of the movie is either that brilliant or that unfocused, but here’s what I’m getting out of this. Bare with me, this might get more convoluted than the movie intended. While Philip is being all hypnotized by Rachel, I feel like the way the movie’s shot and written is trying to keep the audience distanced from anyone’s particular point of view. I feel like we’re supposed to know that Philip’s infatuation is moronic and the audience is expected to maintain our suspicions of Rachel and make the deductions ourselves. I suppose that’s where most of the fun of the movie came in for me, which is odd to say because this movie isn’t meant to be “fun.” I honestly didn’t know what to make of Rachel. She seemed pleasant enough, but any really good murderer would be charismatic and unassuming, but it’s not like she doesn’t feed us suspicions. She’s incredibly persistent when it comes to serving tea to Philip. Kind of makes you wonder certain things. You keep your caffeinated horse piss to yourself, lady! Actually, I’m a “soak it with honey” kind of guy, but no one cares about that. My little theory that I went into could entirely be me grasping at straws, finding something good to say about it, but it’s entirely possible that this movie abandons its murder-mystery premise in lieu of an icky cousin-cousin romance, then dear God, what kind of sick novel was this? In order to preserve my sanity, I’m going with my theory.

I’m honestly trying to come up with a legit problem with the movie. I feel like the unfocused stuff that I mentioned earlier does feel like an issue and even my excuses for why that is feel like I’m just apologizing for the film in some way. On the other hand, that does feel like the point of the film. On the other other hand, does that mean this story is pure shock value? Throwing in an uncomfortable scenario for the audience to cringe at as opposed to actually making educated and logical guesses as to whether or not Rachel killed her husband?

I’m sure I’m missing something. This has to be a popular book for it to be adapted to the big screen twice. But honestly… yeah, this wasn’t something I could get into. And I wanted to this to be grotesquely enjoyable. Instead, I felt more confused than anything else. I can’t pretend that this was the worst thing in the world because I do enjoy the lead actors very much. I also can’t deny the gorgeous costumes and I do find my mind remembering the cinematography quite a bit, as well as the ending being deliciously nuts. However, this movie wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. It’s not the worst watch, but I think it’d help audiences interested in seeing it to not go in expecting a one-hundred percent bat-shit insane movie that would get a cult following like I did. I’d say unless you’re a die-hard fan of Weisz, save this for a either a discount theater viewing, or better yet, a rental. It’s not the strongest recommendation, I certainly don’t see myself revisiting the film, but I won’t pretend to have gotten nothing out of it.

My honest rating for MY COUSIN RACHEL: 3/5

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