A Cure For "A Cure For Wellness"
A Cure For Wellness was a brilliantly filmed short story that was stretched, without care or concern, into a feature length experience that left me with a feeling disinterest and mediocrity. I should start off by saying this isn't a bad movie. It is suspenseful and engaging at times and it was nice to see this story retold in a new light. If you're not sure what I mean by re-told, I'll get to that in a bit. This movie mainly stars Dane DeHaan as Lockhart, the protagonist and Jason Isaacs as the very persuasive Dr. Volmer. It was nice to see Dane in a role that was a little more toned down than his Green Goblin in 2014. The cinematography, with the exception of a few editing errors, is what really scored points for this movie. Gore Verbinski's direction, paired with Bojan Bazelli (as the Director of Photography,) created a quality of visuals that is lacking in many modern films. Where most movies use cookie cutter shots to create formulaic scenes, A Cure For Wellness finds unique perspectives and mirrored surfaces to convey a dreamlike tone. Their use of reflection, symmetry, color and blocking were breathtaking. These impressive visuals, however, seemed to fade after the first half of the movie. Without the beautiful visuals, all that was left was a shell of a thriller with little substance.
The dramatic change in the shots and pacing for the second half of the movie, completely undoes the feeling that had been set previously. Instead of a dark, melancholic suspense about a strange hospital in the European mountains, we get a stereotypical "good guy isn't actually crazy" montage as the protagonist attempts to unravel the sinister plot. This kind of story mechanic isn't always a negative. The reason it bothered me with this film is it felt like the second half was handled by a different director. It seemed to me as though the run time was responsible for this change in tone. As I said earlier, this movie should have been a short story. You could literally feel the project running out of momentum as they try to reach that feature length finish line. This became very obvious in the final confrontation with the two main characters. Instead of an intellectual struggle over the power of the mind and the ability to control others through persuasion and charisma, we get a poorly choreographed fight and some very predictable twists. If they had cut out some of the filler scenes, the awkward dialogue, and the "see what we did there" moments in the final half, this movie would have probably made it to the top of my list, at least for 2017.
A Cure For Wellness however, is still the best adaptation of this story (for cinema) that I have seen. If you're unfamiliar with other titles that share the same story, you should check out "Road to Wellville." It's not surprising If you've never heard of it. It was a very under the radar movie from Beacon and Columbia Pictures that was released in 1994. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Broderick, Bridget Fonda, John Cusak, Dana Carvey and many other iconic stars. This movie is wild, loud, strange, and is one of the worst Anthony Hopkins performances I have ever seen. The only thing this movie shares with "A Cure For Wellness" is the basic premise. Guy goes to a strange health facility, gets caught up in the mystery, gets stuck in hospital, etc. After I saw it I could tell there was the potential for a cool story there and I'm glad we finally got one. Stories about people getting dragged into the estranged world of quack medicine aren't new but I love the concept so I'm always interested when they come out.
Should you see A Cure for Wellness? The short answer is yes. It was very enjoyable and the cinematography alone is worth the rental. I say rental because I don't know how rewatchable the story is. Try to go into this movie with an open mind and allow yourself to get wrapped up in the mystery. Though predictable at times it's still suspenseful and the alternative healing methods and contraptions are a lot of fun. You should also look up the building that was used in the actual filming. The Beelitz-Heilstatten, a.k.a. the Beelitz Sanatorium in Brandenberg, Germany has a very unique, dark history that made it a perfect location for this movie. Hopefully you don't have a fear of eels or botched dental procedures. Enjoy the show!