The Road to Wellville

Year: 1994

Synopsis: Inspired by the real-life Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his Sanitarium, the film follows those desperately seeking health and happiness by sometimes the most eccentric of means.

Pros:
• An almost improbable confluence of actors at their most earnest.
• The humor and overall story trailed the fine line of over the top and subdued, creating an at times surreal experience.
• The set pieces and costumes were truly well done, especially the contrast between the muddy Battle Creek proper and the shimmering Battle Creek Sanitarium.
• The treatments depicted were not far from the reality of the time, while much of them, if not so archaic, exist in some degree of mainstream today. Indeed, the real Kellogg was an early proponent of germ theory and vegetarianism.

Cons:
• Though certainly not far from the truth, the more gross out, scatological humor was not for everyone.
• Felt a bit overlong, not quite rationalizing its two hour length.
• Its meditations on health, happiness, and greed were lost at times amongst the grandeur.

Discussion:
Health! The open sesame to the suckers purse.

The ponderous heart of the film lay in how desperate people can be to find health, happiness and prosperity, and those that exploit that need either nefariously or altruistically. Goodlow Bender (Michael Lerner) was one extreme via greed and pure psychopathy, all but destroying his one time business partner (John Cusack). Despite likely hypocrisy, Dr. Kellogg (Anthony Hopkins) represented the other extreme of apparent altruism. Kellogg genuinely cared, even if what he thought was right was not for everybody. Those extremes came together metaphorically, suggesting happiness could be found through some bizarre mix of both. We might just have to figure out the right recipe on our own.

Dear Will, what is life but a temporary victory over that which causes our inevitable death?


Rotten Tomatoes — 41%

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