Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence & Rhys Ifans
Kind words were few and far between for Susanne Bier’s latest Serena, when it was released last October which came as no surprise considering its troubled production and distribution problems. The film started filming in early 2012 and took a year and a half to complete. During this time Bier had directed two other projects and cast members Cooper and Lawrence had already starred in two other successful films together, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, in addition to becoming household names in Hollywood. The question is does Serena fare better on DVD or are the problems that plagued the production of the film still holding it back? Well yes and no.
George Pemberton (Cooper) is struggling to keep the future of his timber business afloat in Depression-era America. In order to secure a better future for his business his loyal business partner Buchanan (David Dencik) decides to make some illegal business deals and alerts the already suspicious local Sheriff McDowell (Toby Jones). Things become even more complicated when Pemberton falls in love with and marries the eponymous Serena (Lawrence), who is not what she seems and becomes depressed when learning that she cannot bear children.
It’s a rather interesting case for a film. Somehow with it being extremely flawed – the middle suffering from pacing problems and the hackneyed script – it still has enough going for it for further reassessments. The first scene where the audience sees the sort of dangerous industry Pemberton works in grips the viewer from the start. Unfortunately once Serena is introduced to us the film suddenly slows down at an alarming rate and soon we begin to lose interest not only for the characters but for the film as a whole. Fortunately the viewer may stay with the film due to some noteworthy scenes and stand-out performances from the great supporting cast. you’ve got the always memorable Toby Jones as the stubborn local Sheriff. Rhys Ifans is the threatening senior co-worker Galloway and Dencik as dedicated business partner Buchanan.
Many have praised Lawrence’s performance which goes from powerful wife to deadly femme fatale/black widow rather quickly yet there are moments where her performance comes across as uneven and slightly stale. Cooper on the other hand is very impressive and portrays a side to the viewer he very rarely gets the opportunity to showcase …subtlety. Serena is a conflicted character that takes out her frustrations on others she thinks may take Pemberton away from her or reveal her true colours and although Lawrence has her moments in penultimate scenes, Cooper seems to actually become Pemberton as we see that Serena is pushing him closer to the edge that can only end in regret and tragedy.
One cannot help but wonder that another film is hiding behind the pacing and editing problems here. All the drawbacks are redeemable and make the film uneven as it has hints of greatness tarnished by an unfortunate abundance of lacklustre scenes and occasionally banal dialogue that make for a slightly disappointing yet intriguing watch.