"Tulip Fever" slipped quietly into theaters under cover of a studio that clearly didn't want the film reviewed. (No press screenings were set.) But I trotted out to see it, wondering what a film featuring three Oscar winners (Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz and Judi Dench) and a Tom Stoppard screenplay could possibly have to hide.
A fair bit, it turns out.
Based on Deborah Moggach's popular novel set in 1630s Amsterdam, the film emerges as a dimly lit botanical bodice-ripper, (Is that a thing? Should it be a thing?) The story involves an unfaithful wife, scheming maid, randy fishmonger, abbess with a side hustle and a lot of people in neck ruffs — including, for some reason, Zach Galifianakis — shrieking about tulip futures.
The aforementioned abbess is played by Dench, who saunters off with the movie in a no-nonsense way, as if it were something left on the floor that nobody else bothered to pick up. Everyone else smolders and smirks and hums and says dramatic things like, "I am to the Indies. Farewell!"
It's all instantly forgettable. Except for the tulips — which, for the record, look stellar.