A CURE FOR WELLNESS is a really fascinating, beautiful film full of references to films and novels that I love. And so, despite it being about 45 minutes too long for what is, in effect, just GET OUT for white folks, I can't help but have a soft spot for the film. It's directed by Gore Verbinski who made the amazing RANGO, and this film is similarly cine-literate. We are highly aware that he loves Kubrick, and Thomas Mann, and Visconti, and Russian Ark, and dark fantasy horror from the likes of Lynch and Del Toro. And as with all of those, it's deeply aware of the dark gothic medieval fairy tales that underpin all of our worst fears. It's a film where every piece of art direction is meticulous and every framing choice an echo of an iconic forbear.
The movie opens with a young American financier called Lockhart (Dale DeHaan) being sent to Europe to extract his company's errant CEO. Instead of getting him out, he's involved in a weird car accident that results in him becoming an increasingly unwilling patient in the sanatorium. (Echoes of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain!) He's schmoozed by the chief physician, Volmer, played by a deliciously oleaginous and sinister Jason Isaacs with a hilariously perfect German accent. And he's fascinated by a young girl called Hannah (Mia Goth) who seems pre-naturally innocent. As the film unravels, Lockhart gets more bodily and mentally fragile, as he tries to understand why the bizarrely passive patients are ageing and desiccated despite taking "the cure". We get to predictably sinister and fantastic territory but it all takes so very long that I found myself wishing that the movie had had more discipline rather than trying to throw every single image and every single idea onto the screen. Nonetheless, it's a noble failure. A movie full of wondrous moments and cine-love, that just needed a more disciplined hand at the tiller.
A CURE FOR WELLNESS is rated R and has a running time of 146 minutes. It was released in 2016 and is available to rent and own.
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