A Cure For Wellness (2017)
Written by Justin Haythe & Gore Verbinski
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is a young up-and-comer at a prestigious New York investment firm. He’s tasked with taking a journey to the Swiss Alps to recover the company’s CEO, Roland Pembroke. Pembroke left for a wellness center high up in the mountains and has just sent a letter implying he is never coming back. When Lockhart arrives, he meets Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs), a mysterious young woman (Mia Goth), and is pulled into a mind-bending conspiracy that dates back a hundred years.
A Cure for Wellness begins a bit awkwardly but with an interesting enough premise that you want to go along for the ride. A lot of this is due to the credibility of director Gore Verbinski. Yes, The Lone Ranger was dismal, but he is also the man who directed The Ring, so I was willing to extend my goodwill. With The Ring he hit upon all the major elements of a good horror film so why shouldn’t Cure be just as good. Sad to say, this like Lone Ranger, is an utter mess of a movie.
The two big problems with Cure are its script and its lead actor. Clocking in at over 2 and ½ hours, there comes the point where I found myself asking, “When is this going to be over.” It doesn’t help that there are half a dozen moments that could be the ending of the film and then…nope, still going. It appears that Verbinski is trying to draw out the drama and mystery well after the story is telling us things should be wrapping up. The actual operatic finale of the film isn’t terrible, it plays like a higher budget version of a Roger Corman adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe story. The film isn’t afraid to be a supernatural horror/science fiction story, it just takes way too long to get there. This is one of the many problems Verbinski has had in the recent past, the aforementioned Lone Ranger and the Pirates of the Caribbean films that grew increasingly bloated with each iteration. Instead of shaping a strong narrative we have lots of plot, but little actual story and character.
Dane DeHaan. I am increasingly baffled as to how this man continues to get film work. I’ve watched Chronicle, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and now this movie and find him so annoying. He mumbles his way through every scene, playing up the sort of disaffected, too cool for this persona. When the script calls for him to express emotion he is never able to sell it, and his performances are just continually flat. I am also wondering what the hell was that face at the end of the movie? Was that supposed to be a happy face, because he seriously looks like Jack Nicholson as The Joker? Not a comforting image and one that made me go, “So he is insane?” When I saw the trailers for Valerian starring DeHaan and Cara Delevingne I immediately rolled my eyes. They are two of the dullest actors that continually get hired right now. They seem to try and hide in movies full of visual spectacle, possibly in the hopes it covers up how uninteresting they are.
Like many films I seem to come across lately, there is a great premise and captivating visuals all throughout Cure. But, if the style is attempting to overshadow the lack of substance then a film just fall apart for me. Thematically the picture feels very off. From the opening voice-over of Pembroke’s letter to his firm, we have bludgeoned over the head that rich people are empty inside and wealth is covering up this existential crisis. I’m not a fan of the extravagantly wealthy so I do not disagree with the theme, but I really hate big Hollywood movies that assume the audience is dumb as hell, and so they have characters scream the theme at them. But I went along with it only to find a film that seemed to be oozing an overblown budget. It feels like Verbinski is only showing off how much money he had to make this movie by forcing every shot to be some overblown aerial sweep of the castle or elaborate set piece in a pristinely decorated chamber. The theme is meaningless in a film that contradicts it at every turn.