New Review: Serena (2015)
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans, David Dencik, Ana Ularu
Serena boggles the mind. How can a movie that looks this good, and has such a talented cast, be so irredeemably bad? If movies were graded on the power on their images alone, then this movie would be deserving of the highest rating possible. Unfortunately, in terms of acting, writing, and directing, Serena fails in ways you wouldn't even think were humanly possible. It doesn't even have the good-fortune of being so-bad-it's-entertaining. This thing just sucks.
The movie stars Bradley Cooper as George Pemberton, a Depression-era lumber baron who immediately falls head over heels in love with a young woman named Serena Shaw (Jennifer Lawrence) after he sees her riding around on a horse. Literally the third thing he says to her is, "I think you and I should get married," and wouldn't you know it, she agrees. They're given other memorably bad lines together, including such gems as "Our love began the day we first met!" and, my personal favorite, "Your baby is inside me!"
George takes Serena home and makes her a partner in his lumber business up in the Great Smokey Mountains. George's partner and best friend Buchanan (David Dencik) hates Serena the moment he lays eyes on her, although that may be because he was probably hoping that George would pop the question to him first (even Serena can tell Buchanan has the hots for him). No matter. Serena was raised by lumber man herself (until her entire family was killed in a freak accident), and proves quite adept at the business.
At one point, she saves the life of a mystical mountain man named Galloway (Rhys Ifans) after his hand gets chopped off, and he feels devoted to her because such an event was prophesied to him when he was a baby (don't even ask). This comes in handy when Serena miscarries George's kid, is told she won't be able to bear children again, and grows insanely jealous of George's ex-mistress Rachel (Ana Ularu), who spends much of the movie standing around holding George's son in her arms. If Serena can't give George a baby then, damn it, no one can.
The great Toby Jones is laughably miscast as the local sheriff McDowell, who agrees with some local environmentalists that what George is doing up there in the mountains is wrong. Several of George's employees come to McDowell with evidence that he's been cooking the books, but they usually end up getting shot in "hunting accidents" or having their throats slit. Something tells me that if the good ol' sheriff did some investigating of his own, it wouldn't take him long at all to put George away for the rest of his natural life, but then again, that would involve exerting some effort on his part.
How in the world did this debacle ever get made? I'm told the movie is based on a best-selling novel by Ron Rash, who must be a great writer indeed if he's able to make a best-seller out of such lame material. Cooper and Lawrence are talented performers, and they were both so good when they worked together in 2012's Silver Lining's Playbook. Unfortunately, whatever chemistry they had in that film is completely absent here, and both of their performances are so bad that it's bound to make even their most ardent supporters lose some respect for them.
Cooper speaks his lines in a very forced Boston accent, and looks positively embarrassed for much of the movie. Lawrence, a radiant young talent, is comatose except for the scenes where she has an emotional breakdown. In those moments, she goes so far over-the-top that it would be unintentionally hilarious were it not already so depressing to see such a wonderful actress miss the mark so badly.
The tone of the movie sullen and dreary. The editing is choppy and all over the map. The film's pace is so sluggish and uneven that the movie's 110 minute running time feels like an eternity. The climax of the movie, which involves an attempted murder and a gruesome fight to the death, is a mess. Were it not for the movie's look, there would be nothing about Serena to say in its favor. Yes, the camera work, costumes, and sets are all splendidly done, and the movie is always nice to look at, but come on!
Rated R for violence, blood, sexual content
Final Grade: ½* (out of ****)
What did you think of this movie? :)
Other Thoughts on Serena (2015)
- Small(er) Movie Roundup: The Least Fast, Least Furious Edition «
- Jennifer Lawrence superb in challenging 'Serena’ - SFGate
The movie is set in 1927, but director Susanne Bier seems to have decided that an early 1930s look might be more flattering to the eye, and she’s right. Lawrence was only 22 when “Serena” was filmed in 2012, but to see her here, in the styles of the
- Review: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence have strong bond in 'Serena' - LA Times
The Depression-era 'Serena' drama starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as a troubled couple is well acted.
- Serena | RichardRoeper.com
Serena Movie Review D-