Adultery is an ugly affair, and Tulip Fever evokes the same icky feelings one experiences watching Richard Gere's and Diane Lane's characters unravel in 2003's Unfaithful. There is always that reckoning in the morning, with no one getting out unscathed.
On the plus side (!), Tulip Fever is pretty as a picture, designed—as it is—to emulate any one of a number of Dutch masters' paintings from the 1630s and 40s.
17th Century Dutch paintings ("the Golden Age") are my absolute favorite, the few I know much about, and one of my favorite weekends in Amsterdam was spent wandering the halls of Rijksmuseum, which is absolutely packed to the rafters with masterworks by Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Gerard Ter Borch, Karel du Jardin, Adriaen van Ostade, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, Aelbert Cuyp, and Salomon van Ruysdael, though, to my eye, Rembrandt and Vermeer stand head and shoulders above admittedly very tall and wildly talented peers.
Relatedly, I've always loved Terrence Malick's films, the bulk of which feature spectacular scenes filmed during what he (and everyone) regards as "the golden hour," those final few moments at dusk when the sun calls it a day and yields to night. The New World, The Tree of Life, and To the Wonder are handy examples, though Malick's finest use of natural, golden light constitutes much of 1978's Days of Heaven (which, ironically, also features Richard Gere) and also includes ample wheat field scenes (as do The Tree of Life and To the Wonder).
My point being that gold—whether on canvas, celluloid, one's person, or a fish lure for all I care—has always allured and captivated and captured the eye. The Dutch masters and Malick all knew what they were doing at the time, having each used gold to good effect, and the same is true in Tulip Fever.
It may be tulips that cause the fever, but it's ultimately the pursuit of gold, and forbidden fruit, that ensues, ensnares, and ensures one's downfall and eventual demise.
Luscious and gorgeous as something or someone may appear on the outside, it's ultimately what's on the inside that matters, and therefore my primary quibble with Tulip Fever is that it's only a few millimeters deep. Enough to attract, never enough to sustain.