Having worked on the previous films Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle together, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence seemed to have an emotive connection that fuelled their wondrous acting on screen. Thus, with Serena, hopes were high. But the result of this drama is the feeling of exasperation, boredom and overwhelming disappointment.
Focusing on a couple who run a timber empire in Depression-era North Carolina, Serena looks at the complications that ensue when it is learnt that George’s (Cooper) wife Serena (Lawrence) cannot bear children.
One of the many things that are ludicrous about this filmic attempt is the rash editing that takes place in the beginning of Serena. Not only are the scenes cut in the most arbitrary places, creating a pointlessly disorientating result, but they are done so at such a rate that minutes are going by and monumental parts of the narrative are taking place with little explanation or second glance. The irony of this is that the middle part of the film is saturated with very little going on, with either end of the narrative becoming a fast-paced rush.
The narrative itself seemed beyond dull and mundane, entering a meaningless oblivion. Serena never seems to take the audience anywhere, detaching the viewer from any kind of involvement with its two-dimensional characterisation. Unfortunately, the talents of Cooper and Lawrence can’t even save this disaster from the depths of futile filmmaking. With characters so empty and a plot that dragged its heels for its majority, Serena is exhaustingly bad.
The film lacks all involvement, any kind of message and is a dreary experience rather than a cathartic one. It doesn’t seem to attempt to do anything interesting in any form of the filmmaking process, and becomes something of a tame ITV Western drama with ridiculously melodramatic scenes randomly inserted to awake the audience from their unconscious state. To become captivated by this film, one would need to mute it and purely look at its rather stunning landscapes and colour palette.
Serena, directed by Susanne Bier, is distributed in the UK by StudioCanal, Certificate 15. Watch the trailer below.