‘A Cure For Wellness’ Movie Review: The Placebo Effect

Cure for Wellness: These stories where characters are trapped in a place with passive-aggressive authority figures who won’t let them leave always frustrate me. Inevitably, the protagonist keeps confronting them, which only empowers them further to manipulate him. If you know people are tricking you, don’t tell them you’re onto them. Just get the hell out without them knowing. The Cure for Wellness is even more infuriating because it draws out a “mystery” that I solved over an hour before the main character did.

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent by his company to retrieve Pembrook from a spa/treatment center. The staff makes excuses why Lockhart can’t see Pembrook right now, and after Lockhart is in a car accident, Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs) is able to keep Lockhart indefinitely, while Lockhart tries to locate Pembrook and figure out what Volmer is up to.

As Lockhart is learning about Volmer and the history of his clinic, a piece of background information is shared. Based on that you can totally figure out the rest of the plot. The longer it took for Lockhart to find things out, I kept hoping I was wrong. I wanted to give the movie credit that it was playing a longer game. But no, I called it.

Lockhart is especially infuriating because he’s so smug and demanding the entire time. A guy like that deserves a comeuppance, but at this point we hate him even when he’s right. And he’s not right much because he’s so damn far behind the whole story. He’s so suspicious of the hospital yet he keeps confiding in people that he’s surprised to find out are in on it too! He also made a careless decision early on that you can totally see coming. Why couldn’t he?

The sterile hospital aesthetic made me want to leave the movie, but like Lockhart I had a job to do. You do feel trapped there with him, but it’s frustrating because you figure if you were Lockhart, you could play along well enough to get by and get out. Lockhart only makes things more difficult for himself.

This sort of slow deliberate world building works if you’re actually discovering the world as it goes along. Here you’re just discovering more florescent rooms, eel pools and orderlies jerking off. I suppose the dental stuff is genuinely creepy and unsettling, because that’s teeth, man. The sound design is good. There are distinct conversations happening in rear and side speakers.

A Cure For Wellness is probably not the worst made movie of the year. It may be the worst in such polished packaging though. It spends at least 90 minutes thinking it’s feeding you a mystery that you’ve already solved. I almost feel bad for the movie. It really wanted to be a big twist so badly, it’s just sad.

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