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Review: Serena

Serena
03.25.2015
5 10

PLOT: A timber baron (Bradley Cooper) marries Serena (Jennifer Lawrence), a strong-willed, enigmatic young woman who proves to be more than his match, and helps him turn his depression era business into an empire.

REVIEW: SERENA is one of the more mysterious films to come out in the last few years. Shot after SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, but before the movie went into release, SERENA is the Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence collaboration that came before last year's AMERICAN HUSTLE. One wonders why – with both stars white-hot right now – SERENA sat on the shelf for so long, having been wrapped almost two years ago. Interestingly, while the movie only comes out this spring (via Magnolia Pictures) in the US, the movie is getting a wide-commercial release in Canada this weekend.

Having finally seen the finished product, it's somewhat clear why SERENA is getting such a lukewarm release. Coming from director Susanne Bier, SERENA is a fairly opulent production boasting high production values and absolutely gorgeous visuals courtesy of Bier's regular DP Morten Soborg. This is no low-budget art film. It's clear this was intended to be commercial. That seems unlikely now with the film carrying a tarnished reputation and bad reviews. While not quite as bad as you'd think given that it's sat on the shelf for two years, SERENA pales considerably to the two movies Lawrence-Cooper have made with David O. Russell.

Sadly, a lot SERENA's problems come down to Jennifer Lawrence's performance. This is a complicated part and Lawrence, being so young, has grown leaps and bounds as an actress in the last two years. She was always good, but having been filmed two years ago SERENA seems like it was beyond her range. In the first half of the film she's fine, but her performance is badly compromised by the second half, where her character is supposed to become unhinged. By the third act she's called upon to do things as an actress that she had never done before, and Bier, working is English seems like a more unsteady hand than she needed.

Bier's work in Denmark is superb. But her American movies haven't been of the same calibre (although THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE is underrated). Visually, she's spot on, but the performances seem slightly off. Lawrence isn't the only one. Rhys Ifans, who starts off great, winds up delivering a really unconventional performance, and he goes a little over the top.

Bradley Cooper actually fares better than anyone, and viewers may be surprised how much of his the movie this winds up being despite Lawrence playing the title role. His performance seems really solid here, but to be fair to the others his part is a lot simpler and conventional than what the others are asked to do.

All in all though, SERENA is still reasonably entertaining, although this is mostly for camp value. The melodrama is ratcheted up to an eleven, with Cooper's right hand man, played by David Dencik, having an unrequited crush on him. Just in case it's not clear enough that he's gay, Bier makes him wear outrageous ascots and smoke gold-banded cigarettes, while gazing lovingly at the strapping Cooper. The ending also gets a little crazy, wit it suddenly becoming a slasher/action movie and then having the most melodramatic, cornball ending you can imagine. It's a mess.

Still, SERENA has entertainment value, just not likely in the way the filmmakers hoped. It's a fun film, but I don't know that I'd say it's a good one. If anything, it's an interesting look at how far Lawrence has come as a performer in just a few short years.

Source: JoBlo.com

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