Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Cure for Wellness Review

As I mentioned when I wrote my review for "The LEGO Batman Movie," Hollywood has learned in the last few years that they actually are allowed to release highly anticipated blockbusters and still have them make a ton of money. This is a pretty good secret given that each summer seems to get more and more crowded, which last summer proved that this can be a bad thing as so many blockbuster hopefuls can all self-destruct if there's too many of them. Thus is why we've had movies like "The LEGO Movie," "Deadpool," "Fifty Shades of Grey," "The LEGO Batman Movie" and "John Wick: Chapter 2" in current and recent Februarys. Then again, sometimes February is still February. This weekend was one of those weeks. After a great weekend last weekend with "The LEGO Batman Movie" and "John Wick: Chapter 2," this weekend I had to choose between "Fist Fight," "The Great Wall" and this. "The Cure for Wellness." All three looked terrible. Being that I try to review as many movies as I can, good or bad, I thought that I would dive into a couple of these. I figured starting out with our "Shutter Island" wannabe would be a good place to start.

I say "Shutter Island" wannabe because both movies are about a person or persons coming to investigate a mysterious place isolated from the rest of the world where crazy things are supposedly happening. Both movies are mystery thrillers and both movies were even released in February. Both movies included respectable casts and both movies were directed by good directors (Scorsese and Verbinski). That's where the comparisons end. As I said, wannabe. "A Cure for Wellness" only hits the wannabe level because it completely fails on being a good thriller like "Shutter Island" is. The initial premise is also where the comparisons end as far as plot. Dane DeHaan stars as a businessman who doesn't actually go to this mansion in the Alps to investigate. He's there because one of his fellow businessmen has disappeared to this place and they need him in order to successfully complete a merger of some sorts or else the company is going to crash. Or something like that. The specifics are less important. Point is Dane DeHaan is there to bring one his people back and it's when he gets there that he realizes crazy things are happening and he starts investigating what the frack is going on.

I will admit that this movie is not a complete waste of time. We have a setup that's interesting enough. Despite a "been there, done that" feel, this does a successful job at being mysterious. As in we have fantastic visuals and a phenomenal score. I mean, if you're going to have a mystery movie, you need good mysterious music. That music was done by Benjamin Wallfisch, who also did the music for "Hidden Figures" and "Lights Out." He's one who brought his A-game to this project. The cinematographer was Bojan Bazelli and our production designer was Eve Stewart. Those two along with others from the visual team and art department were all ready to go as well. If you ever take a film class, one thing you will always hear is to look for the good in a movie because with every film there's a lot of people that dedicate a whole lot of time in order to try to make a movie work and I do think it's important to do our best to recognize those efforts. This is a movie where we had a crew of talented people ready to go who did their absolute best to do their personal part to make this movie work. I just feel really bad for them because, despite their best efforts, the script of this movie is an absolute inexcusable piece of trash. There's nothing any of them could've done to save this movie.

Step number one if you're going to make a mystery movie is to actually make the movie mysterious. Yes, we had the music in place, but there was absolutely no question in my mind that this place we were going to was bad. One of the many things that makes "Shutter Island" so good is that, despite them going to a crazy place, the movie keeps you guessing. You're not actually sure if the place is corrupt or not. The second you think you have things figured, the movie sends a new interesting twist that makes you second guess what's actually going on. In last year's "10 Cloverfield Lane," we have a girl trapped in a basement with John Goodman. When John Goodman tells her what's going on, you never know if he's telling the truth or if he's full of himself. I went back and forth the whole movie on that, which made for an excellent experience. I didn't have that experience with "A Cure for Wellness." The basic premise of this place is that people go there feeling like they are not well and the place has the perfect cure for them. When Dane DeHaan walks in and the owner of the place tells him what the goal is, not once did I have the question in my mind if he was being truthful or not. Of course he was lying and it was only a matter of time before people started to figure things out.

That in and of itself was disappointing. I like a good mystery and I love it when a movie can confuse me when it comes to the loyalty of its characters. I find the whodunit murder mystery style of movies really fun. It's a big game of Clue. "A Cure for Wellness" wasn't a big game of Clue. It was a game of when are the characters in this movie going to figure out what I figured out in the first 10 minutes of the movie? I'm even ignoring the fact that the trailers gave it a away. You can look at the title of this movie and watch the first 10 minutes of it and you'll have the general outline all figured out. The game of waiting for your dumb characters to figure out the obvious secret isn't that fun of a game. Especially when it takes forever to get to that point. Sure, Dane DeHaan figures out something fishy is going on, but the movie literally takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to final give you the big reveal. Then we have 10-15 minutes of a nonsense conclusion before credits official. Yes, this movie clocks in at 146 minutes, yet it's the type of movie that should've been 90-110 minutes long. At the very least, given the content of the movie, this should've been 30 minutes shorter. That's a problem. I don't know what Gore Verbiniski was thinking, but he got way too carried away with this story.

In terms of that story, there are so many different plot points that the movie sets up. You can have a complex thriller if you want, but you better have dang good writing and everything better make sense. Simple thriller with a simple story is best. Give us some good twists and turns. I welcome that. But don't send us aimlessly in a hundred different directions with a ton of side plots and elements that make zero sense. This movie was 146 minutes long because Mr. Verbinski couldn't decide how exactly to stretch this idea he had into a feature length movie, so he included all of his ideas. That's what it seems like, anyways. There is so much filler in this movie as well as nearly 10 different fake endings. When each fake ending got to me, I was torn because I was thinking to myself that if the movie ended at each point, there would be so many things that made no sense, yet I wanted it to end just to put me out of my misery. Then when we kept going, I was relieved that we now had the opportunity to have more questions answered, but disappointed because the movie kept going and refused to end. We probably had our first fake ending nearly an hour before the movie actually ended. There was zero focus with this and it seemed like there wasn't much thought put into it.

The meat of why this movie is so bad comes in the form of spoilers. As I said, there are a lot of questions that are asked that I wanted answered, but then when the movie starts answering them, I got more and more disturbed. I mean, I knew the general outline of what was going to happen. This organization was a bad organization that was doing the opposite of what they claimed. That's can be told from the title. Then there's this thing where they try to do some clever foreshadowing, but they don't do that very well as they end up essentially spoiling the basic ending on the drive up to the mansion. With that alone I was like, "Oh dear. You're really going to go that direction, aren't you? That's dumb." But then when we got the specific details as to why this was happening, it was just flat out disgusting and wrong. I really want to spoil this movie so I can give it a proper thrashing, but I won't. Thus I can't do this review complete justice, but just know that on my drive home alone, I described this plot out loud and it made me want to puke and go take a nice, long shower afterwards. Why in the heck would you come up with a premise like this and how did a story like this get approved and funded? Who looked at this and said, "That looks like a great idea!" I don't get it.

I wish I could tell you why. But I'm not going to. I'm going to either leave it to your imagination or leave it up to you to go read the plot synopsis if I've made you super curious. But just warning you, it's disturbing. As I said, I think Gore Verbinski is a good director. Not only did he give us the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" and it's alright sequel before screwing things up with the the third chapter, but he also gave us the original American remake of "The Ring," which a lot of people love, the animated western "Rango" and "The Lone Ranger," which I think is a very underrated movie. The man knows how to write and direct, but something got screwed up here because this is a disaster. As I said, a lot of the crew brought their A-game. Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth even do a fantastic acting job as they try to make this work, but this story is so bad that none of that good work is able to save this disaster of a movie and the way this is set up as a mystery and a thriller makes for no mystery and no thrills. Just an overlong, disgusting slog that makes you feel like you've been swimming in the sewer for two and half hours when you walk out of the theater. Don't see "A Cure for Wellness" this weekend. Or, like, ever. My grade for the movie is a 4/10.

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