by Kieran Daly
Serena is a dark, twisted love story set, in the depression era in North Carolina, that revolves around George Pemberton’s(Bradley Cooper) timber empire and the complications that threaten to destroy it as tension starts to rise between him and his newly wed wife, Serena(Jennifer Lawrence). Now other synopses’ of the film will give you a few more details to the story, along with one of the main conflicts in the film, but I found that those details tend to be too spoiler-ish and actually might prevent you from immersing yourself into the films narrative.
The first thing to talk about in this film would be the outstanding cast that has been assembled, Cooper and Lawrence reunite on screen again, which was the main reason I was so excited for the film. Silver Linings Playbook is one of my favourite films, but the director(Susanne Bier) actually fails to give the two characters very many powerful scenes together, which really hurts the film as the audience is only shown when the two first meet and then the narrative jumps forward to after they are married, robbing the two actors of any chance to show how well the two can bounce off of each other in romantic roles. Separately though, the two actors pull off their roles decently. Cooper is cocky and slightly greedy (at first) while also being able to pull honorable as the protagonist, George Pemberton, although he does almost break the North Carolina accent that he is putting on at several points in the film. Lawrence is perfect as Serena, both graceful and hauntingly terrifying; it’s just a shame that there were not enough scenes in the film to showcase her acting prowess a bit more.
The supporting cast is built up of Toby Jones(Captain America: The First Avenger), Sean Harris(Prometheus), David Dencik(Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Rhys Ifans(The Amazing Spider-Man). Jones portrays a Sherriff determined on stopping Pemberton’s corrupt empire from destroying all of the forest in North Carolina, a role he plays exceedingly well. Harris portrays one of the men in charge of the workers on Pemberton’s operation. Dencik is fantastic as Pemberton’s best friend and partner, and Ifans is cool, cold and terrifying as a silent hunter with a dark past. In my opinion the supporting cast was far more enjoyable to watch on screen, it was good to see actors like Ifans and Jones, whom I have seen in big blockbuster films, get a chance to showcase their acting skills, while Dencik, who I had never seen before, ended up being one of my favourite performances in the whole film.
The film itself looks beautiful, the landscape and scenery looked absolutely fantastic on the big screen. It is actually amazing how well the scenery in the film is cut and interwoven to showcase the emotions that are supposed to be felt in different parts of the film. At certain scenes where everything is happy and everything is going well, the audience is treated to a barrage of colours from the trees and the surroundings that the characters are immersed in, while in darker more serious parts of the film, we see a dark, bleak and desolate side the scenery, most of which has been deforested. I guess you could infer that there is some sort of thematic metaphor in the film for life versus death.
The biggest problem that Serena faces is that of it’s pacing and story telling, the film seems to jump around quiet a bit and it doesn’t really seem like much happens in the drama until perhaps the last 30 minutes or so of the film. I will say that the last moments of the film are exceeding dark but exhilarating and will have you on the edge of your seat, it’s just a shame that the rest of the movie could not keep me as entertained. Then again, this could be due to what I deem as a spoiler that lies in most synopses’ of the film.
The best I can say is that Serena is an exceedingly gorgeous film that is filled with dark story telling, an intense final act, an all star cast and a lot of heated sex(don’t get too excited, nothing is really shown). I recommend seeing it if you are looking for a dark and gripping tale set during one of the United State’s darkest times or if you are just one of those movie goers who loves to be blown away by the setting of a film, but it if you see the film, beware of plot spoilers, as it could make the lead up to the final act extremely excruciating to sit through.