I do truly hate starting off a review on a negative note but it’s a thought that I’ve been simmering for the days following my early screening of Gore Verbinski’s latest directorial effort “A Cure for Wellness”, this is a maddeningly frustrating film. For both the incredibly bizarre creative choices, that bear little to any form to any sort of rational thought, and to the sheer brilliance, this film displays all at the same time. This is a movie that will have a very devoted fan base and embrace the weird and balls to the wall craziness that this movie drips with. At times I felt I was ready to join that soon to be fan base. This movie has moments that are utterly brilliant and effective, but this movie is also 30 minutes too long, doesn’t seem interested in answering all its plot points, moves along at the pace of a turtle and at one point seems uninterested in suspense. There is a lot to love and I almost think it makes this movie all the more frustrating.
The marketing billed Gore Verbinski as a “visionary director”. While I can’t go quite that far I have always believed his talents have been undervalued and he has been overlooked and underrated as a film director. His version of “The Ring” still mostly holds up to this day (I know because I just watched it the other night and wouldn’t stop thinking about it as I tried to sleep). “The Pirates of the Caribbean” films he directed (one through three) are easily the best in the franchise (a franchise that I do defend). “Rango” won best animated feature upon its release and “The Lone Ranger” was dare I say fun? (I know I’m in a minority on that one). Even in his lesser films, there is always something interesting about them. The same is true about “A Cure for Wellness”.
This movie is absolutely dripping with style, purpose, attention to detail and airing sense of dread. Verbinski and director of photography Bojan Bazelli give this film, that is at times monochromatic, some absolutely gorgeous visual imagery and shot selections. The editing synchs up well with the pair’s style (they also both worked on “The Lone Ranger” together) and for the first act, the movie is ripe with mystery and suspense. I was completely locked in.
Slowly though the movie’s suspense just starts to waive. The movie takes an increasingly longer time to get into the meat of the story and in many cases, the slow burn might have been affective; here it was not. The plot is just sluggish. Verbinski doesn’t take full advantage of this time to increase our dread and play with our minds. It starts to feel redundant and drawn out. There is a sequence that takes our main characters away from the mental institution and into the neighboring village that completely halts the story and takes away any sort of suspense that you may have been invested in. If it’s that easy for our characters to leave the institution what danger could they really be in?
Before I venture much further, a little background. The story of “A Cure For Wellness” is when a young businessman is forced to go and retrieve a coworker of his from a mental institution so the corporation can finish a business merger. But the institution has far more sinister dealings going on beneath the surface.
You wouldn’t be wrong if you were reminded initially of “Shutter Island”. Rest assured this movie though has its own feel and tone. The stories made sound similar too but by the end, you’ll know that this is a completely different movie.
And by a completely different movie, I mean this movie become a different movie by the end of the movie. I admire when screenwriters and filmmakers can take a small idea at the beginning of the movie and turn it into something grand and large by the end, evolving it into something new. That’s really hard to do. “A Cure For Wellness” isn’t able to pull that off. By the time we reach the end (because wow is there a lot of waiting) you may already guess the big twists (because with this large amount of screen time there is plenty of time to figure them out) but the tone takes a sharp right turn in that process as well. By then the movie almost completely caves into itself. You’re left with so many unanswered questions. These aren’t questions that are really hidden somewhere in the background of the movie, they are just never answered.
This is a shame because the movie has so many good moments and interesting images and haunting imagery. The first third is incredible, but the middle of this movie drags on and on and on. The ending picks the movie back up a bit but divulges into complete lunacy (that some may enjoy). The performances by the main actors are all well done. No one is phoning it in but if you’re not a Dane Dehann fan beforehand this movie won’t change your mind. I am disappointed with the movie as a whole and not only am I let down because I thought the movie looked really good but I love movies like this. There is a real artistic edge here where it feels like the filmmakers had free rain to make what they wanted. At times this movie borders on the air of brilliance and others just infuriating. I hope that studios still try movies like this and don’t shy away from them. I also hope Gore Verbinski picks it up on the next film. This movie is certainly memorable, sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong reasons.