Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
It’s incredible to see what a visionary director can do without the presence of meddling studio executives and the multitude of other mitigating factors that plague most blockbusters. Director Gore Verbinski (THE RING, THE LONE RANGER, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 1, 2 & 3) has been through it all. Blessedly, he returns to fine form (without any of the unwanted hassles he’s encountered before) with A CURE FOR WELLNESS.
The film tells the tell of an cocky and ambitious young executive (Dane DeHaan) who is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a long stay at a mysterious wellness retreat in a castle in the Swiss Alps. Trouble is, whenever anyone visits this place, for one reason or another, they never leave.
At the film’s recent footage presentation on the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles, the auteur spilled a few details about the suspenseful thriller you simply must see.
Verbinski and Haythe pulled narrative inspiration from a Noble Prize-winning laureate. “We’re both fans of The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann’s book. The premise of that book was loosley adapted – along with a lot of strange dreams. The genre allows you to take people into a dream logic narrative. You’re not burdened with the traditional linear narrative. It sort of makes sense the way your nightmares make sense.”
Verbinski was eager to return to the genre. “You have people in a dark room and you’re conducting an experiment on them with sound and image. I find the genre very liberating in many ways. It’s nice to change it up. It’s two and a half years of staying in a very dark place. I’m not out of the dark place yet.”
Verbinski knows it’s a big ask to get people to see something original. He said, “It’s a challenge. We’re not based on a theme park ride, or don’t have any toys. We don’t have ambitions to make a sequel or anything. It’s a big ask to get people to come to the theater.”
Verbinski found this project creatively freeing. Verbinski spoke to the technique of leaving artists alone to do the job they were hired to do – and not have to kowtow to a studio executive notes. “Sometimes when you’re doing something off the radar, you can do more in many ways.”
Skewering society is component in A CURE FOR WELLNESS. Similar to the manner in which Mann’s novel evolved, so did Verbinski’s film. The world shifted and changed around them while both created – Mann’s happened during the first World War and Verbinski’s when American politics shifted. He elucidated about the connection, “While we were making the movie, it was different than now. This is sort of general sickness to society being not well. When we first started making the movie, we were thinking about the human condition – the idea that we were born, we go to school, and we get hit by a bus. What is it all for? [We were] sort of playing with that’s the illness itself. I think we’re ripe for diagnosis.”
A CURE FOR WELLNESS is David Fincher-esque. From CURE’s opening titles done like PANIC ROOM’s opening title sequence, to the casting of Lisa Baines (who was in Fincher’s GONE GIRL), to New Regency (who also producer Fincher’s FIGHT CLUB and GONE GIRL), Verbinski’s vision and sly commentary seems very much in line with Fincher’s aesthetic sensibilities and wit. That’s also not to say Verbinski doesn’t make the material his own as, from the thirty minutes we saw, his own chilling imagery (like that involving quick cuts with teeth, snakes and broken porcelain ballerina music boxes) shines through.
And finally…This image:
…is probably supposed to recall this one from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE:
…but sorta reminds us of this from THE BOSS instead:
And that makes it even more spectacular!
A CURE FOR WELLNESS opens on February 17, 2017.