#REVIEW: “A CURE FOR WELLNESS”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Ambitious corporate executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is on the rise at his company on Wall Street. After discovering illegal activities, his superiors task him with retrieving the company’s CEO Pembroke (Harry Groener) from a “wellness centre” in the Swiss Alps and bringing him back to the United States to sign an impending deal. But Lockhart is immediately suspicious of the spa and the facility’s director, Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Isaacs) – especially once he starts drinking the locally-sourced water.
The trailers cannot fully prepare you for how absolutely crazy A Cure for Wellness quickly becomes. Director Gore Verbinski and Writer Justin Haythe have composed a unique and gorgeously-shot Picture that is mysterious, thrilling and downright horrific – often at the same time. They mash up a few moody genres, crib from a few Films (Crimson Peak being a chief example, but also Movies like Shutter Island and Brazil) and then redefine any and all of your expectations. The Film’s narrow path keeps evolving throughout its lengthy 146-minute running time, frequently shifting in different directions. You may think you have all the answers, but Verbinski and Haythe will keep you guessing until the very end.
But therein lies the Film’s incurable problem: it is filled with dense ideas, but no real concept of how to properly use them. Verbinski ends the Film three separate times(!!!), and lets the tone jump around almost maniacally. I am certain this was intentional, but it makes for an aggravating viewing experience. I was never sure of what information was important, and was left numb by the red herrings and useless material. The narrative could have been infinitely stronger had so much of the filler wrapped around the Film’s most telling, shocking and memorable moments (including some unforgettable dental “surgery”) been removed. I really wanted to love the macabre portrait Verbinski was creating on-screen, but the meaningless repetition and the story’s lack of clarity kept getting in the way – not to mention the emphasis on CGI eels and the imagery related to them.
From his very first scene, DeHaan is on board for everything the Film throws at him. He plunges into the very depths of hell as Lockhart, conveying a near brilliant palette of emotions. I have never thought much of him as an actor, but he carries the Film gracefully through its obnoxious running time and is really in tune with the twists in the Film’s story. Isaacs is a terrific enigma and a spectacular foil for DeHaan, increasingly giving into the mystery that plagues the Film but never quite showing his hand. He taps into the same kind of brooding darkness that made his role as Lucius Malfoy so deviously delightful, and improves on it. Mia Goth plays her role as the cryptic Hannah admirably, but the script never has no real use for her until much too late. Her character development feels a bit stunted (which might also be the point), and the Film never gives her the opportunity to be as compelling as she should be.
A Cure for Wellness is a frustrating Film that I wish I could admire more. Looking past its chaotic problems with tone and brevity, it is a wondrous creation that could only benefit from multiple viewings. It is beautiful to look at, and the performances from DeHaan and Isaacs are solid. With so many franchises, sequels, remakes, reboots, sidequels, and general disappointments – it is downright refreshing to see something so creatively fulfilling and distinctive at the Movies. For those reasons alone, A Cure for Wellness is a must-see.
You may just be slightly apprehensive to drink water or go to the dentist afterwards.
20th Century Fox Canada release A CURE FOR WELLNESS on Friday, February 17, 2017.