Thursday, March 16, 2017
A Cure for Wellness
Lockhart works in a large New York financial firm and has dreams of moving up the corporate ladder. When a co-worker dies, his dream comes true, but not in the way he expected. His own dirty dealings are discovered, so he has to retrieve the CEO, Roland Pembroke, from a wellness center in a remote area of the Swiss Alps. The company plans to pin the illegal activity on the CEO and make him sign to approve merging with another company that would make them gobs of money. Lockhart, assuming that it would be a simple task, goes to the sanitarium fully expecting to leave the same day. Unfortunately, on the way back to his hotel, his car collides with a deer and he wakes up in the sanitarium as a patient with a broken leg. While he is forced to stay there, his investigation uncovers the hospital's disturbing past and present.
The first impression of A Cure for Wellness is its visual beauty. The hospital itself has a World War II era feel with the costuming of the employees, the dark and antiquated machines, the blue and white floor tile, and the blue walls. The muted teal is ever present in the hospital. Clinical, bright white would be everywhere if it were modern, but the teal gives it a shadowed quality and makes it seem like we stepped into another era entirely. The other part of the hospital is a castle that is the opposite in almost every way. The stones, shadows, candles, and artifacts inside the castle are no less beautiful and call forth the medieval era, which is also relevant to the story. Water factors in heavily in the plot and the visuals. Reflections are shown everywhere, most notably in the side of the train as Lockheart nears the town near the hospital and in the water when he talks to the mysterious Hannah. Every scene of this movie is gorgeous even if it has something disturbing in it. While this film isn't perfect, the visuals are the most memorable part.
The plot itself is fun. Lockhart is an insufferable corporate cog, but he's the most relatable person in the film, so we follow him as he descends into the rabbit hole of the hospital history. It has numerous twists and turns that I didn't see coming. I expected the whole thing to be a dream or some sort of fountain of youth, but it wasn't. Red herrings are plentiful, but I enjoyed trying to figure out what was really going on. Lockhart sees crazy things like horrific eels and bodies floating in water balanced with normal things like way too pleasant elderly people, rich food, and an enigmatic director Dr. Volmer. The comparison between the hospital and the nearby town is stark. The town is poor, modern, and varied, pretty much the exact opposite of the hospital. These people seem so different than the Stepford hospital patients because they have real emotions and work hard for their livelihood. The film clocks in at just under two and a half hours, but I was never bored because it's paced pretty well. I found the ending unexpected and had some issues with the end. Many didn't like it and I can see why.
The ending is my big point of contention with this movie. First, it has a few false endings. My main problem is with Hannah, who is portrayed as odd, young girl through most of the story. At the end, she has her first period and then a character attempts to sexually assault after a huge reveal of their true identity. Not only does it go into soap opera and melodrama territory, but Hannah's portrayal is awful. She is just an object to the men. The only modernization of her character is her reaction to the attack at the end. Other than that, she's a textbook one dimensional damsel in distress treated as much younger than she is with no agency whatsoever. A Cure for Wellness is a beautiful film with a mysterious plot. The ending and Hannah are the only blots that messes it up. I was along for the ride up until then and I was completely enthralled with the film. The combination of a '40's era sanitarium combined with the medieval castle right next to it made for interesting aesthetics and a unique story. It's worth a watch, but prepare to be disappointed by the ending.
My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins