A Cure for Wellness Review
It’s a spa but not as you know it.
What was supposed to be a quick trip to Switzerland to bring his boss back to New York soon turns into a nightmare.Generally speaking when we think of a spa retreat we usually conjure up images of a grand house set in acres of beautiful green landscapes where one can spend the days wrapped up in a cosy bathrobe, indulging in a massage or two. After seeing Gore Verbinski’s latest offering A Cure for Wellness, you might just reconsider spending a long relaxing weekend away but more than likely you’ll find yourself in need of some form of refreshment after the madness you’ll have just witnessed. Sent off to Switzerland to retrieve his absent boss is Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), a young hotshot working for a major Wall Street finance company who looks more like a college student than a city slicker. As Lockhart drives up to the main entrance of the spa he watches as the residents, dressed all in white, enjoy games of badminton, croquet and practise thai chi all looking reasonably peaceful and happy.Lockhart immediately sets about demanding to see Pembroke (Harry Groener), the company’s CEO, and get him on the next red eye back to New York. If only it were that simple as Lockhart soon finds himself a patient at the spa under the watchful care of the facility’s director Dr Heinreich Volmer (Jason Isaacs) who with european accent in tow insists that a simple process of purification and a return to a simpler time are all he needs to recuperate. This prescribed way of living seems to be doing wonders for the elderly residents at the spa, even the young Hannah (Mia Goth) who is a ‘special case’ seems reasonably content with her life confined within the spa's grounds. Determined to find Pembroke and get as far away from Volmer and the spa, Lockhart starts digging around and soon discovers that things aren’t quite what they seem and that the good Doctor isn’t telling him everything.
For the most part A Cure For Wellness seems like a good premise for a film but in reality something got lost in translation because aside from a lot of exposition there isn’t much of a pay off. Verbinski’s film seems overly familiar and those who have seen Scorsese’s Shutter Island will find themselves in a state of déjà vu which is only exacerbated by how DeHaan plays his role like that of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. But it’s not all bad; there is some good to be found which is mostly located in the first half of the film where everything is initially set up.
Granted it seems that more attention has been paid to the set design with its mid-20th century decor and walls of endless tiles mixed with the oppressive excess of whiteness giving everything a sterile purity to it; but it does work well in creating an eerie atmosphere where one might not be entirely sure if they are stuck in a dream or not. The cold expressionless orderlies and the cumbersome, dated methods of hydrotherapy and not to mention the number of slithering eels on the loose all combine to give an overall sense of uneasiness.
Good ideas and a decent visual setup don’t make up for the predictable ending
The story however veers off in numerous directions and down various corridors with snippets of backstory added in whilst it indulges in its own sense of grandeur, all seemingly in an attempt to tie all this madness together. With blatantly obvious hints and signposts set up from the very beginning any endeavour to achieve a big reveal is wasted, that or the filmmakers are taking its audiences intelligence for granted. The narrative deals in the usual psychological paranoia film tropes, which are played out well through DeHaan, and he is given most of the screen time. However the script written by Justin Haythe appears as though it got its wires crossed with some other film by the end, where it takes a dark and somewhat uncomfortable turn.
A Cure For Wellness is one of those films that seems like a great idea and has all the potential to be a good film but with 146 minutes running time it’s about half an hour too long by which point you’ll have probably guessed the direction in which it’s heading.
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