A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness is a visually sumptuous experience that deserves a fascinating plot to go with the scenery. It’s not really there, however, so we’re left with an eye popping failure that goes on far too long. Spending two and a half hours in the Swiss Alps isn’t so bad at times, but I wish the screenwriter had realized the story is essentially nothing new. There’s shades of Shutter Island (not just because its lead resembles a younger Leo DiCaprio), plenty of Gothic horror entries, and even a Marathon Man school of dentistry moment. Does it add up to a satisfying whole? Not so much.

Dane DeHaan stars as Lockhart, a workaholic at an NYC financial firm who is tasked with traveling across the ocean to retrieve a coworker. That individual is Pembroke (Harry Groener), the company’s CEO who has gone MIA and is holed up at a mysterious “wellness center” in the mountains of Switzerland. The firm needs him back as they are mired in a trading scandal and forthcoming merger. Lockhart, with his unbridled ambition, is eager to do it.

Once there, he discovers a place filled with some of the world’s 1% trying to improve their lives. It’s run by the mysterious Dr. Heinrich Volmer (Jason Isaacs), who encourages Lockhart and his clientele to be drinking the water fed to them continuously. We suspect it’s not just to keep hydrated due to the altitude.

Lockhart is also told that once you’re at the lush spa, you don’t leave and he discovers this the hard way. His seemingly interminable stay (it sometimes feels that way for us too) acquaints him with Hannah (Mia Goth), a mysterious young girl who still acts far younger than she should. It is this duo that tries to discover the truth behind their surroundings.

A Cure for Wellness is a triumph of production design and other technical aspects. Verbinski, the director of Mousehunt and the American version of The Ring and first three Pirates of the Caribbean pics, has shown these abilities before. If only that pesky story were more original. If only the characters inhabiting this peculiar land were more developed. For instance, Dehaan’s lead character is saddled with a familiar backstory of Daddy issues. Two and a half hours is too much time to be spent here no matter how gorgeous it looks.

** (out of four)

 

Oscar Watch: Silence

Official reviews are at last out today for Martin Scorsese’s Silence. Focused on Jesuit priests being persecuted in Japan in the 17th century, the film has long been a passion project for the heralded director. It’s also long been thought of as a potential major Oscar contender and the buzz certainly confirms that notion. Early reviews are strong enough that Silence looks highly likely to be nominated for both Picture and Director.

In the 21st century, five of the six pictures that Scorsese directed scored Picture nods. The only one that didn’t was 2010’s Shutter Island and that wasn’t really made for awards attention. Only The Departed won the big race along with Scorsese getting his only win ever in Director. Marty’s big competition is in the form of La La Land and its director Damien Chazelle, which still appears to be hold front runner status. In the Directing category, the work of Barry Jenkins in Moonlight is also garnering talk.

Screenwriter Jay Cocks looks assured for an Adapted Screenplay nomination. Silence could also score a number of down the line nods in Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design, and Production Design.

The acting possibilities for recognition is a bit more complicated. Andrew Garfield is competing against himself in Actor and there’s a very good chance he’d be nominated instead for Hacksaw Ridge (or not at all). Then there’s Supporting Actor with Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, and Issey Ogata in the mix. For months, it was presumed that Neeson would stand the best chance, but the Los Angeles Film Critics named Ogata their runner-up for his supporting work. Driver has gotten some ink for reportedly losing 50 pounds for his role here and the Academy loves stuff like that. Add that up and it’s more uncertainty in an already quite uncertain Supporting Actor derby.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar History: 2010

In my ongoing series of Oscar History posts, we arrive at what happened during the year 2010. This was quite a strong year for movies and, unlike other years, I can’t really quibble with the ten pictures that were nominated.

I can, however, differ with what won: Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech. While this was a very solid and entertaining picture, I would have definitely put at least three of the other nominees above it: Black Swan, Inception, and my favorite of the year, The Social Network. Other nominees were 127 Hours, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone. 

Picture/Director matched up as Tom Hooper’s work in King’s Speech would win over Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), and David O. Russell (The Fighter). I may have found a spot for Christopher Nolan’s visually striking work in Inception. 

The love for The King’s Speech continued in Best Actor as Colin Firth was honored for his portrayal as King George VI. He triumphed over Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), and James Franco (127 Hours). It’s worth noting that Franco co-hosted the Oscars that year with Anne Hathaway. It wasn’t too memorable.

While his supporting players were showered with love, Mark Wahlberg was snubbed for his anchoring performance in The Fighter. Others worthy of mention: Leonardo DiCaprio in either Inception or Shutter Island and Robert Duvall for Get Low.

Natalie Portman was a bit of a no-brainer pick for her tour de force work in Black Swan in the Actress race, beating out Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).

I was a little surprised to see Bening’s Kids lead costar Julianne Moore left out. Franco’s co-host Anne Hathaway would’ve been a solid choice for her fine work in Love and Other Drugs. The Oscar voters rarely honor comedy, but they could have here with Emma Stone in her hit Easy A, as well.

Supporting Actor honored Christian Bale as Mark Wahlberg’s drug addicted brother in The Fighter. The other nominees were John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech).

I might have found room for either Andrew Garfield or Justin Timberlake in The Social Network. And keeping the snubbed comedy theme going, here’s an outside the box mention: Rob Corddry for his hilarious work in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The Fighter also won in Supporting Actress with Melissa Leo, who edged out her co-star Amy Adams. The other nominees: Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, and Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. The voters could have certainly nominated either Mila Kunis or Barbara Hershey for their roles in Black Swan.

And that’s your Oscar History of 2010, my friends. We’ll get to 2011 soon…