MOVIE REVIEW: A Cure For Wellness is deliriously bonkers
IF YOU happen to be in the mood to drive yourself insane, watch A Cure for Wellness. Then, find your nearest willing stranger, and attempt to explain exactly everything that happens in A Cure for Wellness.
Gore Verbinski may have made a career out of crafting likeable, marketable blockbusters out of other people's ideas (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean), but he's thrown caution to the wind here - creating what's likely to be one of the most deliriously bonkers studio films of the year.
Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is an ambitious young executive sent by his company's board to retrieve their CEO, Pembroke, who is currently housed in a spa retreat in the Swiss Alps. The move is prompted by superficial concern for Pembroke's wellbeing, after they receive a rambling letter that reads essentially as a more elegantly scribed elaboration on, "wake up sheeple"; though, in reality, Pembroke is actually being brought back to act as a scapegoat for the company's shady dealings.
Unsurprisingly, Lockhart's trip to this mysterious "wellness centre" isn't exactly an easy ride.
Cue a series of increasing weirdnesses: eels, teeth, and crosswords all come to torture poor Lockhart in their own sinister manners. In truth, it's a film that manages to feel both overlong and exhilaratingly eventful; when he finally receives his answers, the film goes all out to craft an explanation that's hysterical, ridiculous, and genuinely disturbing all within seconds of each other.
This is a film that's entirely satisfied with making no sense at all. It's hard not to feel a little endeared by that kind of scrappy energy, especially when the real meat of this film lies in its atmosphere-building, and on the inherent chill of a perfectly outfitted hospital ward. Crisp white uniforms, blank faces turning to greet you with porcelain-white smiles. Eyes that follow you wherever you go. Verbinski has always been something of an expert visual storyteller, and far more is told here in the camera work than in any of the words spoken by its characters.
Lockhart himself is basically a sentient tailored suit, the standard corporate trope - he yells insults at his co-workers down the phone, he chugs nicotine like it's candy. In fact, every single line he shares with his fellow co-workers could easily just be the words "business, business, business" repeated over and over and nothing here would be lost.
But, like much of this film's narrative constructions, where Lockhart comes from matters little; he functions much better as the mystery thriller's standard protagonist, the rational man who enters an irrational world. Every nonsensical occurrence is filtered through the vision of someone desperately trying to find logic where none exists, and we're eagerly invited to partake in his descent into insanity.
DeHaan, in a way, is the perfect lead here. He's an actor whose vibe always feels both classically Hollywood and offbeat at the same time, like a haunted portrait of James Dean, so his presence only add to the film's enticing unusualness. Elsewhere, the film's characters act largely like members of a cult; from Jason Isaac's calm, authoritative presence as the institute's head, or Mia Goth's childlike "special case" - who dances like she's just taken a boatload of MDMA at Coachella.
A Cure for Wellness certainly trades on these broad strokes, but it constructs itself from such variant sources that the end product feels highly original - it's part Gothic thriller, part body horror, part Hitchcockian mystery, part early Tim Burton, part '60s cult film, part the opening credits of an American Horror Story episode. Allow yourself to be submerged, and you'll soon find a genre-bending ride with spooks galore. Just don't try to rationalise what you've witnessed afterward.
A Cure for Wellness opens in cinemas tomorrow.
A Cure For Wellness
Stars: Jason Isaacs, Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth and Adrian Schiller.
Director: Gore Verbinski
Rating: MA 15+
Verdict: 3/5 stars