Judi Dench, Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz can’t salvage this film featuring a badass abbess and a randy fishmonger shrieking about tulip futures. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

Share story

“Tulip Fever” slipped quietly into theaters last week, under cover of a long weekend and a studio that clearly didn’t want the film reviewed. (No press screenings were set.) But I trotted out to see it over the holiday, 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.

Movie Review ★½  

‘Tulip Fever,’ with Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane deHaan, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander, Jack O’Connell, Zach Galifianakis, Judi Dench. Directed by Justin Chadwick, from a screenplay by Tom Stoppard, based on the novel by Deborah Moggach. 105 minutes. Rated R for sexual content and nudity. Several theaters.

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?) involving an unfaithful wife, a scheming maid, a randy fishmonger, an 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 badass abbess (note to self: future band name) 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!” and it’s all instantly forgettable. Except for the tulips — which, for the record, look stellar.