Did you know Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have another movie out this weekend? Yeah, no one else did either. “Serena” was a film shot in 2012, right after Lawrence finished her work on the first film in “The Hunger Games” series. I’ve heard about “Serena” for quite some time now, from it’s initial filming up until it’s release on March 27. I found it interesting that a film with the prowess of both Cooper, Lawrence, and acclaimed Danish director, Susanne Bier, would have such trouble finding a distributor to release the film and even then, I guess you can say Magnolia Pictures dropped the ball on this one, seeing as no one knows this movie exists. But I did, and now I’m here to say whether the magic of “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” are created here.
Let’s get the good out of the way, Lawrence and Cooper are both fantastic as Serena and George Pemberton, a newlywed couple managing a timber mill in Depression-era North Carolina. Their chemistry is undeniably one of the best pairings seen in Hollywood today. Director Bier (Director of “In a Better World,” winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film) also makes a nice stake behind the camera, transforming the shooting locations of Prague into what looks and feels exactly like The Smoky Mountains and maintains a beautiful eye on the entire film. Sometimes there are slightly questionable camera movements like the usage of snap zooms (quick zoom ins) on characters that cheapens the look of the film, but these are few and far between.
As the drama unfolds in “Serena,” focusing on the detriment of Serena’s mental health from living so far away from civilization, the realization she can’t have children, and marital issues, it gives Lawrence a chance to really stretch her acting ability, and there’s no denying she’s one of the best actresses of this generation, regardless of your personal opinion on her. “Serena” is a slow burn film, and is fairly slow in some parts of the film, but slowly increasing tension leading to the final act for us to feast on.
And that’s where it all falls apart.
“Serena” has such a shoehorned final act that it’s almost hard to believe that it’s a part of the same film. The slow-burn nature of the film insinuates that the film should be interesting in the final moments of the film, but not only is the film and completely dull and abrupt, the film takes a completely hammy approach to it’s final moments, and it kills the entire film, so much so that it made me think I didn’t like the first 2/3 of the film. Even some of the performances go down the drain in it’s final act, which was the crowning glory of this low-key, slowly building film. Not to mention a visual effect near the end that was truly Razzie worthy.
I liked “Serena” a lot, until I didn’t. It had so much potential that has been showcased before in previous films, and played well on it for the first 80 minutes, and made me think I was really going to enjoy the film, despite it’s negative reception. Then, I saw what everyone was talking about, the film ended on such a terrible note, that tied nothing up with the story I found interesting initially, with characters I found so interesting, in an interesting character study of a film. I’ve been wondering why “Serena” had such a hard time finding an American distributor, and now I have my answer. I could see “Serena” being a good film, I could come up with a better ending on the spot then what was presented here, and for that, I am sad. Squandered potential is a sad thing.
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Sean Harris, Ana Ularu.
Runtime: 109 minutes
Rating: R for some violence and sexuality.
Available now On-Demand and iTunes and in select theatres March 27th
Magnolia Pictures, 2929 Productions and StudioCanal present, a Nick Weschler and Chockstone Pictures production, a Susanne Bier film, “Serena”