Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness stars Dane DeHaan as Lockhart, a rather unpleasant cad who works for a big financial institution in modern day New York. He has just been promoted to a new position within the company after his predecessor drops dead from a heart attack. But in his new promotion, Lockhart has also been fudging the numbers on his accounts. The SEC is looking at him and his company which is on the verge of a massive merger that would make Lockhart’s company be one of, if not the biggest financial company on the Eastern seaboard. The only remedy is to track down the owner of the company, Pembroke in a Swiss Sanitarium. Get him to come back to New York and all will be forgiven, more or less. Off Lockhart goes to Switzerland, but upon arriving, Lockhart suspects that this sanitarium is not as it presents itself.
There is a lot to like about A Cure for Wellness. The title itself seems to be the unspoken motto of the sanitarium suggesting the only sane and pure people are the patients. The whole look of this film is rather impressive. All of the color has been faded down to a monotone drabness suggesting uniformity and everyone is exceedingly friendly, but in a false and misleading tone. No one can be this happy, can they? As Lockhart begins to peel away the layers of deception, he meets a young girl, Hannah (Mia Goth) who says she has been there, “as long as I can remember”. The head of the facility is a creepazoid who calls himself Volmer (Jason Isaacs). As I mentioned, the film takes place in modern times, but everything at the sanitarium looks like it is from the 1940’s and the 1950’s. Odd machines lurch, heave their patients on the road to complete and total bliss of mind, body and soul.
A Cure for Wellness is a long film with a run time of almost two and a half hours. At times it seems long because the pacing is a bit scattershot. But to Verbinski’s and scriptwriter Justin Haythe’s credit, they take their time for a reason and let this film boil over to its rather odd climax. It is a climax that is so strange that it almost undoes itself with unintentional laughs from the audience. Still, there is a lot to be said for the sheer audacity and I kind of dug it. I will not spoil the ending but, it is out there. Jason Isaacs is nefarious and charming all at once while Mia Goth is sweet and innocent as Hannah. DeHaan is a bit unlikable as Lockhart. Lockhart is selfish, greedy and arrogant but he is observant. He can’t quite add things up, but he knows he is in severe danger.
A Cure for Wellness is not perfect, to be sure, most notably from its erratic pacing. But where the film shines is in its strangeness and the energy that strangeness propels the film. Overall, it works. This is a dark and gleefully unflinching film that does not pull away from even the most gruesome moments. It revels in those moments and as a result, I stayed interested in these characters. DeHaan won me over as I saw his character change from a narcissistic jerk to a man who just wants to survive. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is an interesting mix of orchestral and choral arrangements, peppered with some electronic elements, as well. It compliments the film rather well and is worth tracking down, if you are so inclined. This is a distinctively made film. It is not for everybody and you have to be in the mood to let this film get under your skin. But overall, A Cure for Wellness succeeds just by being the crazy folks at the end of the street. The ones that no one dares go near. A Cure for Wellness might just be remedy the doctor has ordered for the movie blues.
A Cure for Wellness – *** 1/2 out of 5
A Cure for Wellness – Rated R for graphic violence, nudity, language, scenes of terror
A Cure for Wellness – Run Time is 146 minutes
A Cure for Wellness is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.