A preadolescent buddy movie that packs an emotional wallop, THE CURE is set in rural Minnesota, the plot centering on the friendship between two 11-year-old boys.
A southern-accented new arrival, Erik (Brad Renfro) is tormented by his schoolmates. Even so, when Dexter (Joseph Mazzello), "the AIDS boy," moves next door, Erik shares in his schoolmates' fear and scorn of Dexter, who was infected through a blood transfusion. But after talking to the disarmingly
candid boy over the fence which separates their yards, Erik defies his mother's warnings and befriends Dexter. At Dexter's house, Erik finds the affection he does not get at home. Dexter's mother Linda (Annabella Sciorra) welcomes Erik into the family and is heartened to see how his friendship has
brightened Dexter's life.
Erik thinks of ways to cure Dexter's illness and concludes that since the health food diet he is on has not cured him, he should try candy. Next, inspired by the film MEDICINE MAN, they try to find the cure among foliage they gather in the woods. After one of the herbal remedies Erik concocts for
Dexter proves poisonous, the boys' friendship is brought to the attention of Erik's mother Gail (Diana Scarwid), who makes arrangements to send Erik away to camp to keep him away from Dexter. Determined not to be torn apart, Erik and Dexter run away together, taking a raft down the Mississippi
towards New Orleans where, according to a supermarket tabloid, a doctor has found the cure for AIDS.
At first a grand adventure, the trip soon becomes difficult and dangerous. When Dexter falls ill, the boys return home by bus. Dexter is hospitalized, and Erik, constantly at his bedside, enlivens his friend's days with stories, games and practical jokes. When Dexter dies, Erik feels he has let
his friend down by not finding the cure, but Linda teaches him that his friendship did heal the pain of Dexter's loneliness.
The directorial debut of actor Peter Horton, THE CURE has been criticized for glossing over the AIDS crisis. It is true that the film does not delve into the social ramifications of AIDS, as do LONGTIME COMPANION, PHILADELPHIA, or AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. Instead it looks at the disease through
the eyes of two children, who approach it, and the need for a cure, as though it were a science project.
Horton elicits exquisite performances from his cast, most notably from Renfro, whose performance is all the more remarkable considering this is only his second film. Mazzello, whose credits include SHADOWLANDS, THE RIVER WILD and JURASSIC PARK, turns in a beautifully restrained performance as the
precocious Dexter. Sciorra convincingly conveys her character's courage, vulnerability and anguish at losing a child. In a scantily developed character, Scarwid plays Erik's ignorant, alcoholic mother with undisguised venom.
Kuhn's script features some wonderfully tender, touching and comic moments, as well as the tearjerker conclusion, but it leaves many questions unanswered, particularly those relating to the characters' backgrounds. The script's biggest deficiency is the boys' highly improbable Tom Sawyer-style
river adventure. But the film's overall power is only mildly muted by the loose ends in the narrative. THE CURE was critically well-received and given a wide release by Universal, only to suffer from poor box office receipts due to its depressing subject matter. (Adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A preadolescent buddy movie that packs an emotional wallop, THE CURE is set in rural Minnesota, the plot centering on the friendship between two 11-year-old boys. A southern-accented new arrival, Erik (Brad Renfro) is tormented by his schoolmates. Even so… (more)