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What a weird, sweet, beautiful film. It speaks to this generation in a way I don't think I've seen a film do before.
I look at the negative reviews and wonder...did they see the same film I did? Or the original Dumbo for that matter? Not only was this movie great at capturing the original dark tone, but it also had a sense of wonder all it's own that made me instantly certain I would want to revisit this film again and again. If your kids have fidgets or scare easily, this might be one to save for home viewing. It is definitely not light fare.
So I just got back from The Cure for Wellness. Given the creepiness of the previews, this is a film I've been looking forward to for awhile. I'm going to put my review below a cut. While I don't like to do spoilers in my reviews, there was some very trigger worth stuff in this movie so yeah, I'll be talking about it. For those who don't want spoilers, here is my spoiler review:
Well that was some shit.
For those who want to know why, see below.
Where. Do I. Begin.
I have very few good things to say about this movie, so I'll start with those I guess. They'll be the quickest. The first third of this film is beautiful to look at. The cinematography, the scenery, the color, the costumes, everything is very well done to create some definite atmosphere. In my mind's eye, I remember everything being very blue and gray in the first part, which makes sense. That color does change as the environment changes, and we start getting a lot more greens as "sickness" grows. Also good. The artistic direction of this film was beautiful and I just wish it had been spent on a worthier movie. One shot in particular stuck with me. It was a wide shot of a girl standing beside a stone pool of water. Behind her, the beautiful Swiss alps. In front of her, the still, perfectly round pool, reflecting them like a mirror. She asks "Why would anyone want to leave here?" and I have to admit, looking at that shot, she has a point. But, sadly, this is kind of the end of the good things I have to say about this film.
The easiest thing to pick on is the CGI. I'm not sure if they blew their budget on set building and location or what, but this was some of the most laughable CGI I've ever seen in my entire life. There's a scene with a deer and I never believed for even half a second that a real animal was even remotely involved in that scene. The color was off, the fur was cartoony, the movement was unrealistic, it was painful. Later in the film there's a sort of reveal that also required CGI when practical effects would have been SO MUCH better. And yeah, it looks cartoony then too. I had to hold back a laugh, which is not the reaction you want your audience to have when you've made an atmosphere heavy horror film.
Tone is also kind of a problem. It's all over the place. I don't even know what to classify it as. There were times when I was like "oh they're doing a shutter island kind of thing, like is he really insane." But no...they abandon that almost as soon as the idea came into my head. Then there's a scene in town which...I don't even know what the point of it was. If it was removed from the film it would have changed nothing, and it was long, too.
Now let's talk about the gore. This was one of the most difficult films I've had to watch since 8mm. We're about to enter spoiler territory folks so this is your last chance to get out. On a whole, there isn't a lot of gore. But what gore there is sticks with you. There is a scene where a cow's gut is slit open spilling the contents, including an unborn calf. I suppose the reason is thematic, as it does mirror something that happened in the exposition, but it was unnecessary in my opinion. There are other little things. The cutting off of a leg cast with a jagged piece of glass, that sort of thing. But the one I'm probably going to see every time I close my eyes for awhile, involved a tooth. Ladies and gentleman. There is a full 2 minute scene of a dentist drilling right through the center of an incisor and ripping it out of someone's head. No creative editing. It shows you. I'm never going to be able to stop seeing that, and I did not sign up for that.
Now let's talk about the story. I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty because there is just a fuck tone of convoluted shit to deal with. I'll just talk about the big conclusion. Maybe it felt worse to me because some Parents of the Year had dragged their 13 year old daughter to this film, and didn't immediately leave after the masturbation scene in the first 30 minutes. The finale of this film involves a man who forced his sister to marry him, raped her repeatedly until she could bear him a daughter, but was then killed. He then raised the daughter and then, literally the moment she has her first period, has a faux wedding with her and proceeds to tie her to a bed and prepare to rape her. He smells his fingers, ladies and gents. He smells his fingers.
The film ends on a strangely ambiguous note, because that's what we needed after all that. We get a final shot of our protagonist with the strangest expression on his face, as if we're supposed to ask ourselves "was he really mad the whole time did any of that happen" and I am just sitting here going are you FUCKING kidding me?
I was so damn excited for this film. I couldn't wait to see it. And now I'm out $12 and I've got tooth drilling behind my eyes for the rest of my life. If I could, I'd sue the filmmakers. I don't even know how to wrap up this review, normally I'd do some final thoughts, but I got nothing. Don't go see this film. Or...if you must...leave after about the first 40 minutes cause those are the only good parts.
I honestly don't know how to give a concise sum up for this review. I don't. I tried. I asked around. I don't know. It wasn't a terrible film, I guess, but it certainly wasn't a good one. I feel like this film, even more than Batman vs Superman, shows just how little DC understands why the Avengers worked. If you're not willing to put in the work for your ensemble pieces, then you're not going to get a quality product.
That was my predominant thought, over and over again, as I watched this. Gee, I would have liked to see a movie about this guy. Gee I would have liked to spent more time with Harley and the Joker before she went crazy. Gee, I wish I cared more about June and Rick, but they just don't give me enough time.
Put in the work, DC. You could have broken new ground here. No one, literally no one, has done this sort of thing. You could have applied the Avengers formula to villains, and if you think that wouldn't have sold you clearly don't understand your own product. I would have watched the hell out of at least four of the possible origins this film offers. But we didn't get that, and so I didn't feel emotionally bonded to anyone on screen. You cut down your own stakes by treating your main characters with as much disregard as their jailer. And now you're reaping the results.
On the subject of Harley and the Joker
One of the biggest things people were talking about as this film was gearing up was Jared Leto's joker. They talked about his method acting and the horrible things he was doing to get into character. And for all that buildup...he was barely in the film. And while he was a good enough Joker, and I never doubted him as the character, it just wasn't anything to write home about. He was no better or worse than any other Joker that's come before him. Well, maybe he was worse. It's hard to say. They're all very different characterizations of the Joker and they're all accurate in their own way. He'll never be my Joker though. I'll save that right for Mark Hamill.
But about Harley. The thing I feared most, going into this film, was how her character, and particularly her relationship with the Joker would be handled. I was afraid that the film was going to make her a sexy lamp, relegating her to something pretty on screen with little to actually contribute. I was also worried that they had removed her agency in her own origin story. That they would romanticize her relationship with the Joker. I have never been happier to have my fears proven invalid. Mostly. I do feel like a lot of the abuse that goes on between Harley and the Joker was conveniently swept under the rug and, in retrospect, I've come to the conclusion that I would have been perfectly happy for with their portrayal if they had just included three little words.
During the flashbacks of Harley's origin, the audience is told that she was the Joker's doctor, and that she fell in love with him. And in that one instance, we remove a huge aspect of her character. Harley was not in love with the Joker. Not exactly. She has extreme Stockholm syndrome. She thought she could fix him. And then she started to sympathize with him. He was an expert manipulator and he played her. Now that's been her origin in literally every incarnation that's ever been done of the two of them. I do understand the need to change things up for a film, but just three words. Three words and it would have preserved her entire origin and gave a perfect picture of their actual relationship. Instead of "She fell in love with him" all they had to say was "He manipulated her. She fell in love with him." There. Done. Fixed. So no, I can't get behind people who say they were just doing something new for the film, because they weren't. This wasn't something new, if it was, you couldn't fix it with a single line of dialogue. To me, it was an over simplification, for the purpose of not making things too difficult. Maybe that makes it easier to slap Harley and the Joker on Hot Topic t-shirts and sell them to little girls. And that? Is reprehensible.
But what about the rest of the movie?
It was okay, I guess? It was boring, over all. I kept thinking to myself God...they're a million miles from the villain, this is going to take forever. Nothing overtly awesome happens. Most of the action scenes center on things that aren't interesting, like Will Smith's face while he shoots masses of people. Everything is dark and the jump cuts make it hard to stay focused on anything for more than a few seconds. I never felt a real sense of danger for any of the characters because, again, DC never gave us the chance to really form emotional bonds with them. They literally gave us dossiers and then dumped us in. Without spoiling the end, I will say that the final emotional weight of the climax is completely lost because I simply didn't care. I didn't know these people well enough to. And that's really all I can say about the film. There isn't anything else there to review.
The one saving grace of the film is Harley Quinn, with Deadshot being a close second. They're the only characters that the film makes any effort to really connect with, I'm assuming because they're played by the biggest actors in the thing. Robbie's characterization is fabulous, at all times, and every moment she's on screen is literally perfection. Smith is just a damn fine actor. He wasn't given a lot to work with, but you feel it because he really gives it his all. So, for those two? This was an okay film. But they both deserved better. And the sad truth is that unless the film starts pulling in some better reviews or higher numbers, we're unlikely to get most of them. I hear there's talk of a Harley stand alone film, which makes sense, it sells itself. But the others? Who knows.