WRITTEN BY: Christopher Kyle
DIRECTED BY: Susanne Bier
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones
RATING: 1.5 stars
If you had never seen Jennifer Lawrence act in anything before watching Serena, you would think she was a terrible actress. Worse still, the film is totally boring and predictable. The score serves only to emphasise the ridiculousness of the plot involving a string of unlikeable characters. Serena was clearly doomed from the start. It was filmed in 2012 and reunited Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, but it was shelved for more than a year before its debut. That is rarely a good sign for a film. Indeed, with a running time of close to two hours, the film dragged painfully before an unsatisfying climax and conclusion.
Set during the Depression, George Pemberton (Cooper) runs a wood plantation business and is looking to expand further. When he meets the mysterious Serena (Lawrence) who has a troubled past, he immediately proposes marriage. But the film is no fairytale, so the plot quickly starts to unravel from that point on. Serena becomes a partner in George's business and that unsettles his friends and co-workers. It seems the entrance of Serena into George's life might lead to his undoing.
The film becomes repetitive with talk about wood chopping, politics (and not the interesting kind) and "love making". There are several sex scenes between Cooper and Lawrence but they are, for the most part, neither sexy nor advance the plot. The sub-plots involving George's love child, a jealous best friend and a hitman who works at the plantation, are supposed to be thrilling but instead, each conclusion can be seen coming from the get-go.
While Lawrence gives perhaps her first really bad performance on screen, Cooper, who has never really impressed me, is equally woeful with an accent that changes with every sentence. Rhys Ifans plays the mysterious hitman and while he is somewhat entertaining, he seems to be a caricature and there are too many things about him left unexplained. Toby Jones is solid as the local sheriff and Sean Harris is also good but their roles are small.
The film has been directed by Susanne Bier and written by Christopher Kyle. It seems perhaps they have both failed in their adaptation of Ron Rash's book, as the film spirals into an odd melodrama. Don't waste your money on Serena.