Director – Susanne Bier (After the Wedding)
Cast – Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, Sean Harris
Plot – In the heat of the 1920’s depression era, lumberjack tycoon George Pemberton (Cooper) meets, falls in love with and marries driven young woman Serena (Lawrence). The addition of Serena into George’s life creates a myriad of different problems that include local sheriff McDowell (Jones), George’s business partners and shadowy hunter Galloway (Ifans).
“I want them to know it was a woman who tamed the eagle”
Review by Eddie on 6/05/2015
With its picturesque landscapes and its similarly picturesque leads, one would’ve thought on face value that Susanne Bier’s lavishly produced 1920’s set drama based on Ron Rash’s popular book was a sure-fire critical darling and a decent box office earner but after finishing production way back in 2012 this just recently released drama is a tale that fails to create its own identity in the crowded melodrama genre.
With two huge hits behind their acting partnership, the combo of Lawrence and Cooper and the pairing of Academy Award winning director Bier; who sadly has yet to really transfer her skill behind camera to an English language film, should’ve produced fireworks where what we get is a mere flicker of a flame. What’s so disappointing about this unapologetically depressive drama is that it constantly threatens to become high quality, it constantly brings you into its characters only to leave you feeling cold once more and therefore Serena acts as an incredibly frustrating piece that so easily could’ve been an awards darling and a hugely affecting study of love and ambition to boot. The other irritating aspect of this fact is that the answers to the films shortcomings aren’t overly clear cut.
In Lawrence and Cooper we all know and understand we are in the hands of two very capable actors but it would be suffice to say that neither deliver top turns in their respective roles. Cooper looks the part of lumberjack kingpin George Pemberton but struggles at times with a laboured accent and some questionable scenarios while Lawrence flirts the line between over extenuated dramatics and heartfelt horrors in a rollercoaster turn as the haunted Serena. Brier also can’t go without blame in a directional outing that sees her shock with scenes of uncompromising anger and loss yet also sees her go off the rails rather frequently, with particular mention of a terrible last act that sullies much good will that the film ebbed out during its runtime.
There’s a lot of undeniable quality on show here in Serena, from its lavish costumer design, at times brilliant cinematography and moody score and when the film works it works quite well but there are far too many downsides to this gloomy tale that can’t be ignored. Without ever truly creating its own unique identity and with a bunch of characters we’d dearly love to care for more, Serena is sadly a forgettable film that could’ve been so much more, a statement I’m sure those that were involved with this project would agree to also.
2 and a half unfortunate foot slips out of 5