Review by Justin Waldman for Mr. Will Wong
Danish Director Susanne Bier’s latest effort, the long-awaited Depression Era Drama Serena, comes with high expectations, reuniting Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle Co-Stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence a third time. The Film is based on the Bestseller by Author Ron Rash. Other than some watchable performances from a talented Ensemble, telling a Story of corruption and jealousy, regrettably we cannot help but feel it misses the mark.
The Film focuses on our two main Characters, George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) and his Wife Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) as they attempt to make backdoor deals in order to leave a Depression-riddled North Carolina for a better life. They attempt an illicit deal, using real estate and timber which George owns, paying-off County Officials to verify that his land is worth more than it actually is. All the while, his Secretary whom he impregnates, returns to the small Town with his Child and passions flare as Serena becomes threatened by Rachel (Ana Ularu). Upon discovering secrets kept from Serena by George, she enters the territory of moral ambiguity and the problems begin to spiral in magnitude. We wonder though, was this her intention all along?
We’ve seen Screenwriter Christopher Kyle‘s (Alexander and K-19: The Widowmaker) solid work prior, hence Serena‘s lack of focus and plodding actually is surprising. The Film’s greatest problem is that multiple times when we feel it is about to reach a point of climax, its momentum is halted as our attentions get shifted to a different story point. Matters are left hanging and the Audience perpetually is left to piece them together.
The constant Saving Graces of Serena however are its two Leads, especially Lawrence, who proves that despite being the face of a massively-successful Franchise in The Hunger Games, has the range, depth and ability to carry us through. If left in any less capable hands, the Public might not be nearly as forgiving.
Although aesthetically it is pleasing to the senses, ultimately Serena struggles to become the Arthouse Piece in which it was intended to be. After an 18-month overhaul in its editing, we are left to ponder what exactly was left behind on the Cutting Room floor…
eOne Films release SERENA on Friday, December 5, 2014.