You’ve never been on an office retreat like this one. “A Cure for Wellness” sounds like it could be a self help guide on leading a happier, healthier life but is in fact a mystery thriller about a cure that may be worse than the illness.
Dane DeHaan stars as financial whiz Mr. Lockhart, an ambitious executive in an American company. His boss, the company’s CEO Roland Pembroke, has disappeared at a European wellness spa in the Swiss Alps. The big wig came to the facility to take advantage of the healing waters that run underneath the spa’s castle but later sent a note back to Wall Street. “One cannot willingly return to the darkness when he has the gift of the light. I will not return do not contact me again.”
With the CEO unwilling to return on his own Lockhart’s partners send him to retrieve the AWOL boss so they can unload the company at a huge profit. “The merger cannot go through without Pembrook signing off on certain legal matters.”
One 4000-mile journey later, Lockhart arrives at the castle, missing visiting hours by just five minutes. Without a working phone or WIFI he travels to the nearest village, only to be badly injured and left, stranded at the castle as a patient. As he recuperates it becomes clear the sanatorium is like the Hotel California, you can check in anytime you like but you can never leave!
As the line between real and unreal blur, his search for information on Pembroke takes on the air of a gothic horror story, embroidered with equal patches of history and mystery. It seems there might be a connection to the genetic experiments conducted by a Baron who lived in the castle 200 years previously.
“A Cure for Wellness” has an on-going sense of Gothic unease that builds with every sideways glance and dark and shadowy corner. Director Gore Verbinski aims to find a similar off kilter feel to “The Shining” where every day objects and places take on sinister feel. He spends endless time establishing the atmosphere, time that might have been better spent crafting an interesting story. Many times throughout I didn’t think ‘How will this end?’ but ‘Will it ever end?’
It drones on for two-and-a-half hours, a running time that equals an audience endurance test, throwing characters and ideas at the screen, hoping for one to take hold. It all leads up to a pretty good ‘n twisted climax, one that Vincent Price would approve of, but it takes for too long to get there. Verbinski is known for his unrestrained running times, but please someone explain to him that less really is more.
DeHaan does deserve credit for submitting to some very uncomfortable situations but one has to wonder how he kept a straight face while head doctor and creepy guy Volmer (Jason Isaacs) intones gobbly goop about the cure for the human condition being disease because only then is the hope for a cure. Perhaps if this were a bit campier, played with a sense of how ridiculous it is, it may have been tolerable, but as it stands “A Cure for Wellness” is a Seatbelt Movie, a film so misguided I needed a seatbelt to prevent me from bolting from the theatre.