May 24, 2017

“A Cure for Wellness” is a beautiful looking and haunting mess


Normally in the early months of a given year, the mainstream wide releases leave a ton to be desired. Sure, there are decent enough ones if you look hard enough, but they’re usually safe genre outings, with more often than not the quality movies being independent releases. Ambition and ambitious filmmakers are in short supply. As such, even though A Cure for Wellness is only sporadically successful, the effort and uniqueness being put forth is worthy of commendation. Filmmaker Gore Verbinski goes all out in this hybrid body horror/mystery/thriller, leaving no odd stone unturned. I didn’t especially like it, but I’m oddly glad that it exists and that I saw it. Opening this week, it might just be a cult classic in the making.

The plot is fairly hard to follow, unnecessarily so, even if it starts out rather simple. It follows an ambitious, overworked, and morally flexible young financial executive named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) as he is sent on a very sensitive errand. You see, he’s been tasked with retrieving his company’s missing in action CEO, one Mr. Pembroke (Harry Groener), from an idyllic yet mysterious “wellness center” that Pembroke has wrote from asking to be left alone at. Located in a very remote location in the Swiss Alps, Lockhart arrives at the spa but in short order suspects that the miraculous treatments being given by Doctor Volmer (Jason Isaacs) are not what they seem. Before long, something horrific begins to rear its head. The less said, the better, but trust me when I say it’s pretty messed up stuff. Verbinski directs and co-writes with Justin Haythe. The cast, in addition to the aforementioned names, includes Mia Goth, Celia Imrie, Ivo Nandi, Rebecca Street, and many more. Cinematography is by Bojan Bazelli, while the score comes to us from Benjamin Wallfisch. It all adds up to something a bit sillier than it could have been, but lots of what happens will be hard to shake from your memories.

Despite an almost nonsensical script, the thing that has stayed with me since seeing the film about two weeks ago is the visuals. Verbinski and his DP Bazelli make every shot a work of art. Whether it’s the glass monstrosities of the Manhattan skyline or the horrors hidden within the wellness center, nothing is an accident. The cinematography stands tall among 2017 releases so far. That doesn’t make up for the shortcomings that the screenplay has, but it gives this flawed yet fascinating flick a distinct vision all its own. You may not like what you see, but odds are you won’t be able to forget it, and that’s certainly something.

Here is how I would rank Verbinski’s filmography so far:

1. The Weather Man
2. Rango
3. The Mexican
4. The Ring
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
6. A Cure for Wellness
7. Mousehunt
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
9. The Lone Ranger
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

On Friday, audiences can experience something very weird with A Cure for Wellness. It’s unique and unlike anything else in the marketplace, there’s no denying that. Fans of Verbinski or DeHaan will probably be already in line, though its wider appeal remains to be seen. It’s an odd duck, through and through. I can see equal amounts of viewers loving and hating it, but that’s the nature of a beast like this. Regardless, it’s not the sort of thing that’s easily dismissed, and I’m sure the talents behind the film would be pleased with that. Give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out A Cure for Wellness, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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