A Cure for Wellness

 

starstarhalf

 


Tales of paranoia, hallucinations and dental devastation from the director of Pirates of the Caribbean.

 

Cure for Wellness, A
 

The clue is in the title. Gore Verbinski’s psychological thriller is set in a sanatorium and we know what sanatoriums are like, particularly those housed in Gothic castles perched high in the Alps. They’re odd places at the best of times, where the fat and the old parade around naked, submit themselves to bizarre daily rituals involving mud and the birch and are deluded into thinking they are on the mend. Any memories of Michael Caine indulging himself at the luxurious Alpine spa in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth are quickly banished though, as Benjamin Wallfisch's conventional horror score attempts to wriggle under our skin.

 

Dane DeHaan plays ‘Lockhart,’ a Wall Street player in the mode of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street. There’s even a striking resemblance between the actors. Having brokered a Machiavellian merger between two financial service giants, Lockhart is obliged to fly out to Switzerland to retrieve a senior partner who is convalescing at a clinic there. But no sooner has Lockhart’s chauffeur delivered him to the front door, than he is informed that visiting hours are over. In fact, the rules of the institute are rigorously adhered to by civil, robotic members of staff and you just know that something is awry. “No one ever leaves,” a teenage girl tells Lockhart, whose head has already been filled with local folklore about the place.

 

The director-producer Gore Verbinski, who collaborated on the original story with the scenarist Justin Haythe, has never been accused of subtlety. Following his bloated Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy and The Lone Ranger fiasco, he now takes a slim, familiar idea and blows it out of all proportion. David Cronenberg knocked out this sort of thing at half the length and a fraction of the budget. As it is, A Cure for Wellness stretches to 146 minutes and refuses to go away. Verbinski is in love with his own imagery and takes great pains to make the most of reflections, mirrored perceptions and visual distortion. And the Alps look lovely. But his yardstick is not so much Cronenberg as Kubrick, with generous allusions to everything from A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut by way of The Shining.

 

Unfortunately, the viewer is always one step ahead of Lockhart, who seems incapable of getting the hell out of Dodge. There are moments to savour, with reliable support from Jason Isaacs recycling his Lucius Malfoy shtick and Celia Imrie as a denizen who no doubt wishes she were still at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. And be warned: anybody who’s had an endoscopy or visited the dentist may have cause to squirm.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Adrian Schiller, Celia Imrie, Harry Groener, Tomas Norström, Carl Lumbly, Lisa Banes, Maggie Steed.

 

Dir Gore Verbinski, Pro Arnon Milchan, Gore Verbinski and David Crockett, Screenplay Justin Haythe, from a story by Justin Haythe and Gore Verbinski, Ph Bojan Bazelli, Pro Des Eve Stewart, Ed Lance Pereira and Pete Beaudreau, Music Benjamin Wallfisch, Costumes Jenny Beavan.

 

Regency Enterprises/Blind Wink Productions/New Regency Productions-20th Century Fox.

146 mins. USA/Germany. 2016. Rel: 24 February 2017. Cert. 18.