Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Premise: A young business executive (Dane DeHaan) is sent to an isolated hospital in the Swiss Alps to retrieve the CEO of a struggling corporation. The executive gradually suspects that the hospital is not what it appears to be.
What Works: Whatever his other faults, filmmaker Gore Verbinski has a distinct visual style. As seen in the director’s previous films such as 2002’s The Ring and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, Verbinski has a talent for creating creepy and unique imagery. That is the only positive aspect about A Cure for Wellness. The movie has some disturbing images and in that respect it is distinct from other titles in the contemporary sci-fi and horror market.
What Doesn’t: There’s a lot wrong with A Cure for Wellness but the film’s single greatest failure is how boring it is. A Cure for Wellness feels every second of its two and a half hour running time. There is no reason for the movie to be that long. The story is straightforward; a stranger arrives at a mysterious facility and discovers its nefarious secret. There’s nothing novel about this premise but the filmmakers bungle the concept anyway. Director Gore Verbinski, who shares the writing credit with Justin Haythe, seems to be going for the kind of dark, sexual, and ambiguous storytelling of David Lynch’s films like Lost Highway but A Cure for Wellness has much more in common with Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. The story is a disaster. Nothing in A Cure for Wellness makes sense and the movie is needlessly complicated. The lead character arrives at the isolated treatment center where the patients are assured of their sickness and thereby kept in perpetual treatment. But there’s no obvious endgame to the scam. If there is any reason that the staff exploit the patients, it is never clear. The evil doctor who runs the facility, played by Jason Isaacs, has a secret but it has nothing to do with the operations and treatments that the facility provides. A Cure for Wellness is an attempt at gaslighting, in which the characters and the audience have their perception of reality manipulated. But the filmmakers have no idea what they are doing and the film is a sloppy mess. Characters and subplots are introduced but nothing is done with them. No one in A Cure for Wellness is interesting and the characters are never more than one-dimensional. The protagonist, played by Dane DeHaan, is introduced as an ambitious but unscrupulous up and comer in the business world. His adventure in this movie doesn’t challenge those qualities or even put them to some relevant use. The rest of the cast don’t have any distinguishing characteristics or unique stories and most of the patients don’t do anything except lounge around in bathrobes. It’s impossible for the audience to care what happens to these people and the filmmakers don’t seem especially interested in them either. The story has nothing at stake. The young executive is sent to the hospital for vague reasons and there’s no drama as to whether he succeeds or not. But the CEO he is sent to retrieve disappears from the story pretty quickly and from then on Dane DeHaan’s character spends his time wandering the hospital grounds and bumping into clues but not really doing anything. The comparison between A Cure for Wellness and Sucker Punch is furthered by this film’s sexism. This movie has a sleazy edge and not in a way that is subversive or admirably risky. The movie leers at lead actress Mia Goth and when the big secret about the facility is revealed—and it’s not much of a secret—the film takes a misogynistic turn. In its climax, A Cure for Wellness reveals what it really is; the movie’s pretension to science fiction and the artifice of its production values is all a shady excuse to rip off a woman’s shirt.
Bottom Line: A Cure for Wellness is a stupid and badly made film. The moviemakers dishonestly pretend to be edgy and provocative but A Cure for Wellness is really just a trashy exploitation film that is also insufferably boring.
Episode: #636 (February 26, 2017)