Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. The first thing you need to know right up front is that not everybody is going to love A Cure For Wellness, but those that do are going to fall head over heels for it.
That's the gamble that filmmakers take when they switch tone in a feature and Gore Verbinski loves to keep his audiences on their toes. Going back to Mousehunt he's told his stories with a little extra something-something. That's a kid's movie, but it has that little extra something-something that makes it weird enough for adults to enjoy. We've seen that ambition over and over again in his work and it's absolutely here in A Cure For Wellness.
What begins as a mystery with an imposing gothic Val Lewton tone gets weirder and more lurid and pulpy as more of the story behind the mystery is uncovered. I dare say that by the end of the movie we're into some primo Roger Corman A.I.P. schlock territory and I LOVE that.
A Cure For Wellness is the kind of movie that some 10 year old is going to sneak into and will consider one of his or her all-time favorite movies. Even if you can't roll with the shifting tonal gears you'll know this is unlike any genre film you've watched in recent memory.
A good deal of that is the story being told, but a crucial contributing factor is that Verbinski brought his typical artistic eye to this tale. It's a great contrast that a story as slimy and disturbing is so gorgeously shot and staged.
Everything you'd expect from a high quality Gore Verbinski film is here: beautiful cinematography, deliberate, effective pacing, detailed production design, on-point performances and a touch of artistic decadence.
It's a high brow skin on what's would typically be considered a low brow skeleton and that's the combination that is irresistible to me.
The story focuses on Dane DeHaan's Lockhart, an ambitious dickhead Wall Street type who is in hot water at the company and his only way out is to throw an eccentric board member under the bus in his stead. The only problem is this board member went off to a health spa in the Swiss mountains and hasn't come back, so Lockhart is charged with bringing him back or losing everything.
DeHaan relishes in playing Lockhart as selfishly as he's written, not afraid to embody a lead character that most audience members will instantly dislike. The trick with unlikeable characters is they have to be interesting. The audience doesn't need a saint, they need someone fun to watch and Lockhart has such a cocksure personality that you kinda enjoy watching his confidence chip away until he's finally sympathetically trapped.
A lot of the WTF-ness of the unraveling plot helps us side with this cocky asshole by giving us some bad guys that are so much worse. By the time we know what he's up against Lockhart has turned from being that loud business guy on the flight complaining about his denied upgrade to that friend of yours that you know is an asshole, but he's your asshole.
There's also a point in a movie where his selfishness drops. It's not a big come to Jesus scene for the character (which I appreciate), but an evolution in his empathy as he begins feeling protective of a young woman at the retreat.
Not only does Hannah, played by Mia Goth, bring about a change of character in Lockhart, Lockhart brings out a change in Hannah. She's fascinated by this young guy in a world filled with middle aged to elderly patients and staff. It sparks a curiosity in her that makes her a little more rebellious. In short, some of Lockhart's asshole nature rubs off on her and it makes her stronger.
Jason Isaacs plays Dr. Volmer, the head of the retreat, and he does a bang up job in the part, which I firmly believe would have been Vincent Price had this same story been made in 1971. You know something's wrong with this health spa and you know the guy running it has darker motivations than is belayed by his charm and eager helpfulness.
Price was great at playing with the light and the dark and Isaacs likewise fully commits.
A Cure For Wellness is a weird movie, which the modern day studio system so desperately needs more of. I have no idea if the movie will find its audience right away (I'm horrible at guessing box office), but I'm 100% confident the movie will find its audience. That's the beauty of making something different. It will stick with people and not get drowned out by a couple dozen of similar films.