A Cure for Wellness (2016) Review
A Cure for Wellness (2016) Review
Dane DeHaan is excellent as Lockhart, a young, odious, ambitious young executive cajoled into visiting an opulent health centre in the Swiss Alps to retrieve Roland Pembroke (Harry Groener), his company’s CEO. No sooner has Lockhart checked in at the establishment than his sixth sense starts tingling, things are definitely not what they seem to be and he sees eels, lots of eels! Welcome to Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness!
The cinematic career of Gore Verbinski is a curious one. After catching the eye of the film industry with his award-winning commercials – his most famous being the Budweiser commercials with the frogs- he amused with 1997’s MouseHunt, infuriated with his lacklustre Brad Pitt flick The Mexican (2001) before hitting the jackpot, both commercially and critically, with his 2002 US adaptation of The Ring. The Ring was a rare remake in that it actually retained the chills and thrills of the original flick, never bettering it but still a decent effort nonetheless.
The following year saw Verbinski’s clout sky-rocket when a little film by the name of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl wowed audiences and reviewers becoming an unexpected box-office smash. From that point on Verbinski was given free reign to do whatever he would like. This resulted in a couple of very muddled, bloated sequels to Pirates, none of which were actually any good but went on to make lots of money so Verbinski continued to have free reign. Hollywood doesn’t care if the product is crap, it’s a business, it’s about making money and the Pirates films made money. The same excesses Verbinksi managed to get away with on the Pirates franchise (nonsensical, indulgent and over-long) failed to turn his big-screen take on The Lone Ranger (2013) into box-office gold.
Despite Verbinski’s muddled big-screen output I was still keen to see his A Cure for Wellness. His last foray into the horror genre – The Ring – both surprised and impressed me and given that he was working with a relatively meagre budget ($40million) perhaps this would reign in those flabby indulgences he is prone to and we would had a nice, tight screamfest. Unfortunately that is not the case. A Cure for Wellness, like his The Lone Ranger and Pirates sequels, is long, far too long. It also shares another trait with those misfires by starting well but ending up making very little sense. It would appear that I was not the only one disappointed. The critics generally hated it and audiences were not exactly clambering to see it either. The film failed to recoup its $40million price-tag grossing just $26million.
Working again with Justin Haye, The Lone Ranger’s scribe, Verbinski’s film dares to take a threadbare plot and drag it out over two-and-a-half hours. The story seems straightforward but Verbinksi still manages to fudge the telling. Plot points are hammered home to bludgeoning effect. The number of references to water in the film’s set-up becomes nauseating, with Verbinski calling upon his actors to say the word as if it’s in bold capitals. Enough already, we’ve got it, it’s something to do with the water! With such spoon-feeding you’d expect the rest of the film to be a doddle to follow. It’s not. Whilst seeking out Pembroke at the hospital Lockhart wanders into a steam room only to find himself temporarily trapped when the entrance disappears. Nothing really comes of this moment and it’s never really explained either, this is symptomatic of the film one the whole.
I had high hopes for A Cure for Wellness – especially since it’s an original story rather than a franchise horror flick – but alas it came up short. What is bewildering is how an original story manages to lack any surprises for an original story. Tonally it’s all over the shop, the story sits uneasily amongst a number of visual spectacles that hold no water (see what I did there). Initially Verbinski’s film plays out as a social satire but then veers towards The Shining before resting at The Man Who Cheated Death. Unfortunately everything feels half-formed, ideas come and go and add nothing as a consequence, one minute the lead has teeth removed, the next thing you know they appear to have grown back again. A muddle!