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A Cure for Wellness. A Review
Being that I see a lot of movies both for the purposes of reviews and just for the enjoyment of it, there are few movies that I do not know quite a bit about before I see them. Between trailers and TV spots and the like by the time I sit down in the theater I usually have a pretty good idea of what I am about to see, for better or worse. With A Cure for Wellness I tried my best to exclude myself from these forms of advertisement and walk into this one with as little information as possible. About an hour before the movie started I caved and reverted to my movie critic obsession and did a quick IMdB search and learned a little about who was exactly making the movie. The names were good, all be it some names that could use a good movie. A Cure for Wellness seemed like the kind of movie that is better when you know as little as possible, I wish I had never heard of it and I could have saved myself a couple of hours.
Looking at some of the promo material after I had seen the finished product, there were some reviewers that compared A Cure for Wellness to The Shining. This is either a gross overstatement or an attempt by the reviewer to get his tag into the commercial, probably both. This movie is nothing like The Shining, which I fall into the "horror classic" camp when it comes to the Kubrick adaptation. A Cure for Wellness has none of the subtlety or tension building that The Shining has. Not only are most of the major plot points pretty blatantly laid out and explained to the viewer, they make a point to explain the same things over and over, beating the point into your brain that these people can't be trusted and eels will be a plot point in the third act. To be fair I have heard more than one person complain about the vagueness of movies like The Shining, but the absolute dumbing down of A Cure for Wellness is almost insulting.
I Don't know the exact budget of A Cure for Wellness, but by the lack of big stars and most of the movie taking place in one building tell me that it was probably not a big one. This is not necessarily a problem, I think the best movies are made under certain restrictions and when filmmakers have to work with these restraints to make as great a product as possible. Lower budgets can force directors into simplifying an idea and can also be a way of discovering younger talent. To get back on track like I said the cast is a little lacking, but this is not just regarding the star factor. No one does a bad job necessarily, there just are no performances here that I was really impressed with. Dane Dehaan has had better roles and while his character here is almost insufferably dislikable, he is still a solid young actor who will move on well from this. Jason Issacs who most of us probably know for playing Lucious Malfoy in the Harry Potter movie franchise has probably the most interesting character in A Cure For Wellness, but by the end has gone off the rails and seems to have been expanded to be the villain of the movie rather than a strong part of it. There are not really many performances in this movie to discuss, but again this does not really fall on the actors, it is more of a writing problem.
Writer Justin Haythe has some great credits to his name such as Revolutionary Road and The Clearing, but also has some misses in The Lone Ranger and Snitch. A Cure for Wellness from the jump feels like a Shutter Island rip off, but with much less artistic integrity. There are times when A Cure for Wellness feels it may end up being something different from the normal main character starts to slowly fall into madness under the watchful eye of what is thought to be highly trained professionals, but ultimately leaves you unsuprised and unsatisfied. Haythe sprinkles multiple references to dreams (such as teeth falling out and drowning) to give the viewer the idea that maybe the whole thing is a dream, but then lets the other plot points get in the way. That is the other main problem with A Cure for Wellness is that is seems to want to tell two different stories. Part of it wants to be a psychological thriller about an upstart executive who has been tasked with going to this exotic hospital to retrieve a board member who needs to return to normal life to ensure a multi million dollar company sale. On the other hand it also wants to be a horror mystery about a castle and an incestuous Baron and the search for eternal life. To be fair the later half feels like a studio hack job to add some extra horror to the story and ultimately waste everyone's time.
A Cure for Wellness had potential. It had a unique setting with a young up and coming actor and a director and writer who have some experience in this genre of film. Gore Verbinski has had massive success with the Pirates of the Caribbean series and has even had success in the horror genre with The Ring. The cinematography is somewhat interesting but falls short of some of it's contemporaries. There are more than a few people who could have stopped this movie from going off the rails and becoming one of the most disappointing movies I have seen in a while. The run time of 2 hours and 26 minutes is absolutely absurd and is a slap in the face to audiences. If a few unnecessary plot points were removed this could have definitely been a movie closer to two hours which still would have felt way too long. It is clear now to see why this movie flew under the radar a bit and was released in mid February. Maybe without so much studio involvement A Cure For Wellness could have been a solid movie, but something tells me this project was doomed from the start.