Critic’s Corner: “A Cure for Wellness”

Michael Ambrosino, General Manager, Entertainment Editor

‘A cure for weariness’ is much needed after sitting through the 146-minute “A Cure for Wellness.” Movie theater chains should consider running a Starbucks advertisement at the end of the film.

While I have trouble stating that “A Cure for Wellness” is a terrifically good film, I cannot deny that the ambition and sheer artistry on display is impeccable. It’s a massive, hugely ambitious and inspired film with a few standout moments of genuine horror and beauty. The film’s primary problems, however, lie within the script, which underwhelms in its second half and throws a bunch of extraneous and “who-really-gives-a-crap-about-this?” material into the mix, extending its runtime to a punishing 146 minutes.

There is a very good 100-minute thriller somewhere in “A Cure for Wellness.”

The movie follows a young, New York City business executive, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), who is sent to a blissful yet bizarre and creepy wellness center in a remote location in Switzerland. Upon his arrival, Lockhart quickly suspects that things aren’t exactly what they seem. “There’s a terrible darkness here,” one of the patients informs Lockhart.

This is the newest movie from director Gore Verbinski, whose filmography includes the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, as well as “The Ring,” “Rango” and “The Mexican.” I am an admirer of Verbinski’s work. He’s known especially for making pretty weird films, which I usually enjoy. “A Cure for Wellness” is definitely Verbinski’s nuttiest film yet, which is fun in spots but once it starts to meander in its second half, it loses its eerie tension.

The film’s first hour-or-so is quite good. It’s mysterious and eerie, it has a strong sense of atmosphere and gleams with a ghostly horror. Then, unfortunately, it begins to fall apart, with only a few notably scary moments in an otherwise interminable latter half. The film builds and builds to a final act that feels very unsatisfactory and a climax that’s unforgivably schlocky. The feeling of suspense that’s present early on disappears, and the obnoxious lead character – played well by the talented Dane DeHaan – grows tiresome, whose backstory feels tacked on and without much reason other than to take up time.

“A Cure for Wellness” has a visual aesthetic that’s an absolute marvel to behold. It doesn’t save the film’s second half from being underwhelming, pretentious schlock, but it offers viewers something to grab a hold of.

My recommendation: skip “A Cure for Wellness” in theaters and wait for it to hit Netflix. In the meantime, watch “Shutter Island” or “The Shining.”