At a butt-numbing two and a half hours long, Gore Verbinski’s latest effort, A Cure for Wellness, suffers from the same fundamental problem as his Pirates of the Caribbean films: self-indulgence. But whilst this could have done with some serious editing, easily affording to lose a good half hour, there’s no denying that, as a whole, it is an ambitious and unusual project that’s worth commending in spite of its many issues.
Based on a concept from Verbinski and Justin Haythe, the screenwriter with whom the director worked with on The Lone Ranger, this stars a brilliant Dane DeHann as a young executive who is charged with the task of bringing his CEO back to New York from a “wellness spa” in Switzerland. The mission proves more difficult than thought, however, as his charge refuses to leave, unwilling to return to a life of cutthroat business.
Initially, this appears to be the direction that the film seems to be taking – a parable about societal greed and class divides. It’s no coincidence that the location of the spa – a place which is usually associated with people of money – is situated at the very top of a mountain, overlooking the poor town folk who live at its roots.
Within the first quarter of an hour, it seems clear that the film’s title would refer to a cure for richness, a cure for selfishness, and that notion is something that I find so compelling that I found myself settling in and getting excited for where the story was going to go.
Then everything changes, and not necessarily for the better. As DeHann’s Lockhart finds himself in an accident that forces him to stay at the centre whilst he heals, the story suddenly takes a turn toward the bizzare, the twisted, and the supernatural. Suddenly, gone are the rich themes about the rich, in favour of bodyshock scares and lots (and I mean lots) of eels.
As the film declines further and further into complete lunacy, you’ll either find yourself going along with it or being completely distanced from it. Personally, despite some issues, I was surprised to find myself in the camp of the former. Everything does become utterly bonkers by the film’s final act, but the mystery at its centre is intriguing enough, and the cast are all watchable enough (hello to Jason Isaacs, by the way), whereby I was quite happy to strap in and see where it would go.
For better or worse, it’s at the very least something different. And regardless of how you may feel about A Cure for Wellness on an emotional level, one thing that can’t be denied is just how visually arresting it is. Bojan Bazelli manages to create some of the most eye-catching cinematography that I’ve seen in years, which is sure to stay with you for a long time, even if the film itself doesn’t.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com