“A Cure for Wellness” – a film review by Gary Chew
A large financial deal is about to be signed off on, but the required signature for the paperwork is that of a man who has taken time off from his New York office for R & R at a remote mountain retreat in Switzerland, in the movie A Cure for Wellness. Executives at the home office are shocked when they get a hand written note from their absent boss saying he’s found something more life affirming and won’t be to returning to the big, wild world of high finance in the Big Apple.
Three important board members, quivering at their conference table in a towering skyscraper, summon a young executive in the business to fly to Switzerland and fetch the AWOL CEO. If the merger they want to quickly accomplish doesn’t happen, the firms stands to lose a fortune. (Cue the money.)
Lockhart, played by Dane DeHaan, is the “lucky” guy who gets the executive order to make an urgent trip to the idyllic but creepy wellness center in the Swiss Alps where the CEO appears to be receiving terribly expensive but miraculous treatments of some sort. DeHaan had the role of Lucien Carr in the “delightful” photo play called Kill Your Darlings. DeHaan was buddy’d up with two other actors in it playing Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg in that 2013 release. Daniel Radcliffe did Ginsberg.
Arriving in Switzerland, Lockhart finds it almost impossible to subsequently leave the ancient complex where elderly patients walk about the manicured grounds or play volleyball, badminton and croquet. Yes, it’s lovely among the lofty mountain peaks at this historic array of large edifices … but even more creepy … whether it’s day or night.
Hospital staff demand all patients drink copious amounts of the local mountain water, as it holds the secret to getting well from whatever it is that ails you; so Volmer, the Chief Physician, purports. Jason Isaacs is cast as Volmer. Gee, that name reminds me of Lord Voldemort! Hmm. The reason for that? Well, Isaacs, who was cast as Lucius Malfoy in the adventurous and harrowing Harry Potter smashes, is Volmer in A Cure For Wellness.
By now, you must be getting the drift this is a sort of Potterish story, but more contemporary. All the health care professionals at the elevated retreat have looks and reactions of Nazis … but with ‘nary a swastika or storm trooper in sight.
However, there is the nubile Hannah, a part handled by Mia Goth. Oh, just speaking her name makes me think of Marty Feldman atop an old castle, tooting his horn. Please don’t think I’m trying to imply that Wellness is outrageously funny like a movie Mel Brooks might do. Director Gore Verbinski is the man who put the “cure” to this new release. It’s entertaining and creepily suspenseful; and in a grim way, occasionally, pretty damn grisly. Definitely not for the kiddies, People.
DeHaan isn’t an emerging actor out of Scandinavia or Germany He’s Pennsylvania-born in Allentown. It’s Dane’s eyes that do it. And so do Mia Goth’s peepers do it for her. In fact, all actors in this creaky, edgy-clean flick have faces you can’t forget … some of them whether you want to or not.
I’ve avoided relating much of what happens in A Cure for Wellness. You really need to be nearly uninformed in order to get the right voltage of jolts that come with all the surprises Verbinski has laid into this rather bracing film. I will say, though … keep your eye on the tall weird figure Lockhart spies on in the middle of the night as the slim weird guy pushes a gurney around the grounds with what looks like a corpse on it.
Oh, another semi-spoiler: watch for the quick shot of Slenderman in an old photo. It shows early on. And more of this mysteriously invented online craze of a bloke comes near the end of the film when the vintage black and white photograph comes back into play. Then, be sure to see the currently running HBO documentary of Beware The Slenderman. It will chill your blood for real, unfortunately.