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A Cure For Wellness &

Fifty Shades Darker

February 16, 2017

A Cure For Wellness (**) 

The late, great filmmaker, Ken Russell, was often quoted as saying that when scripting his movies he always took into account the BF factor. When pressed for more information as to what the BF actually stood for Russell was always quick to point out that it was Butt Fatigue, or rather how long the audience would comfortably sit for a film without getting antsy. I think that Gore Verbinski, the helmsman behind such long-winded affairs as the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films and The Lone Ranger would do well to take into account Russell's BF factor as well with his latest effort, A Cure for Wellness.

Verbinski’s latest patience testing exercise, A Cure for Wellness, clocks in at an unbelievably butt numbing two hours and twenty-six minutes. If this were a film dealing with a subject worthy of that sort of running time that might be okay. I’m not against films of extreme length, per se, as long as it is warranted.

Dane DeHaan in A Cure For Wellness

However, this isn’t that sort of film. What we’re dealing with is a basic horror premise that would have had a much more powerful effect on viewers had it been short of roughly forty-five minutes. The pic is filled with such nonsense, to name one example, as a dance sequence taking place at a ball of some sort which I don’t have to tell you has absolutely no place in a horror film of this sort. To say it’s a patience tester would be an understatement.

So what about the film’s story? It’s a half-baked tale that obviously owes a great debt to Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. Here, a high-powered executive has disappeared after heading off to a chic clinic that offers its clients the cure of the film’s title. An up and comer (Dane DeHaan) is sent to fetch him but finds himself trapped at the facility and uncovering some secrets. Along the way he suffers such indignities as having his front tooth literally drilled to pieces while strapped to a chair and having a limb broken. This is all staged gleefully by director/co-writer Verbinski in gory but stylish detail.

A Cure for Wellness might be worth the effort if it didn’t defeat its own logic by the film’s end. The audience is lead to believe, through most of the film, that something supernatural is afoot but the ending turns out to be rooted in the real world in the most conventional way. The film’s premise may offer a Cure for Wellness but what’s needed at the film’s end is a Cure for Boredom. And that’s something that won’t be found here.

Fifty Shades Darker (* ½)

There’s nothing I or any other critic can say that’s likely to detract the curious from the trainwreck of a film that is Fifty Shades of Darker. What’s wrong with it you ask? For starters it has two leads with zero onscreen chemistry and a plot that is just a flimsy excuse on which to hang the vanilla flavored sex scenes that are contained within the film. Sex scenes that have been teased/hinted at in the theatrical trailers for the film leading up to its release and which will probably only please emotionally starved housewives whose husbands have been inattentive for far too many years. Even those who are fans of the books will probably be disappointed as major dramatic turns that I’m told were a big deal in the second book (I’ll cop to having read the first one and that was enough) are turned into non events here whose outcomes can be easily be guessed far in advance. The first film was bad but this one even manages to one up that feat with its combination of sheer stupidity and boredom.

One thing that kept the first film somewhat interesting was how Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), the young hotshot billionaire at the film’s center who never misses a chance to remind everyone how rich he is, coerced the young and naïve, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) into signing a contract with him.

Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades

He has relationship issues and she’s needy enough to do things that Christian wants her to do. The contract was the closest the playboy could come to entering into any kind of relationship, which makes you wonder what Anastasia is thinking. Thankfully, she left him at the end of the first film and you think to yourself that, perhaps, lessons were learned if nothing else.

Fifty Shades Darker makes it clear right off the bat that no lessons of any kind were learned. At the beginning of the film, Christian begs ‘Ana’ to give him another chance and he promises to do things her way. He showers her with gifts and even goes so far as to have her boss fired at her publishing firm job when the cretin attempts to rape her. Yep, ole Chris obviously likes to micromanage things.

The first film promised to give us some insight as to why Christian has relationship hang ups and we do finally get to meet the older woman (Kim Basinger) with whom he had an affair in his misspent youth. Of course her appearance doesn’t add anything of substance and is mostly just a tease for things to come in the third installment due next year. It all becomes so monotonous after a while you just find yourself wishing for it to be over.

Of course all of the blame can’t be placed on the film alone. The original trilogy of novels penned by author E.L James had roughly as much literary merit as our current president’s tweets so it wasn’t like they were starting out with top material. Still, with a filmmaker such as James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross) at the helm I was hoping for more. I guess there’s only so much you can expect when the bar is set so low to begin with.

Both of these movies are playing this week at the Carmike in Hickory and in other area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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