R 146 mins. Gore Verbinski USA 2016
I think you need to start with the eels. The eels are everything in A Cure for Wellness. They are what I am going to remember from this oddly forgettable movie, and they are a metaphor for the film’s promise and failure to live up to that promise. If this movie were a character in The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015) and had to turn into an animal because it couldn’t find a mate (and I can’t imagine there are a whole lot of potential suitors lining up), it’d chose to turn into an eel and slip out of our grasp and our memories as soon as it could. And it’s not even an electric eel! There is exactly one scene that works in this movie, but the movie couldn’t let it last and so it moves to the next scene incoherently, but we’ll get to that. For now, just picture some eels looking kinda weird but not actually doing anything (perhaps they’re supposed to be phallic? The movie almost does something interesting with this, but then it definitely doesn’t) for a whole minute and it’ll be like you watched A Cure for Wellness, but instead you’ll have 145 minutes left to do anything else with your life. Maybe get yourself an eel and play with it?
One front from which you can’t attack A Cure for Wellness is its scope. Thanks to its extended length, it takes its time to develop a world which at once exists within our own and about 200 years in the past. A man named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) must travel to the Swiss Alps to retrieve a fall guy for some shady business dealings. He discovers that the sanatorium his prey resides in might not be on the up and up, but before he is able to finish his task he suffers an accident and breaks his leg, forcing him to become a patient at the weird mountaintop resort where the water just might kill you. There’s a lot, and I mean a lot, between that set-up and the overblown climax, but recounting it will not help you understand the film any more, nor will it be very meaningful. This movie is too busy trying to do everything that it ends up doing nothing other than test the viewer’s patience.