release date: 5 December 2014 (Canada)
run time: 109 mins
director: Susanne Bier
starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, Sean Harris, Sam Reid, Blake Ritson, Kim Bodnia, Charity Wakefield, Ana Ularu, Ned Dennehy, David Dencik, Christian McKay, Michael Ryan, Mark O’Neal
movie summary: George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) owns a somewhat profitable lumber business in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, when the United States crashes into the Great Depression. He owns a few hundred miles of woods in the United States on top of owning some land in the undeveloped parts of Brazil. On a business trip to the north to discuss his finances with the bank, George stops by a horse jumping event and meets the beautiful and charming Serena (Jennifer Lawrence). When he gets a moment he chases her on horseback into the forest where he proposes marriage and she happily accepts. The two head off on a two-week honeymoon across the fancy cities of the north before returning home to see things have only gotten worse.
The U.S. Government is in town to purchase a majority of George’s land to open a National Park. Serena is instantly promoted to Vice President of the company which puts George’s business partner Buchanan (David Dencik) in an awkward position since he’s always been the go to guy for advice. He wants George to take the government’s offer of $400,000 dollars and forget that the land was once worth $1 million, Serena vetoes this deal and convinces George to hold out and get a better offer. Buchanan is furious how this transaction goes down and feels like the odd man now, so he goes behind George’s back to work a deal with the government and the town Sheriff McDowell (Toby Jones). The Sheriff has tried for years to catch George in an illegal deal or some sort of shady practice which would bring down his whole lumber company. McDowell may get what he needs when Buchanan offers him the books in exchange for the property money.
As if George’s life could get any more complicated, Serena begs him to start a family with her. They try and try until she finally gets pregnant. Despite all the joy the newly wed couple could feel, a local girl named Rachel (Ana Ularu) returns to town with a baby boy who is George’s. When the couple find out about Buchanan’s betrayal, George offers to take him out hunting with his crewmen Galloway (Rhys Ifans) and Campbell (Sean Harris) where he accidentially get shot. The Sheriff can’t believe his star witness is now dead and wants to pin the murder on George but Campbell steps up to defend his boss.
The secrets of the small town are only growing bigger and darker as George has begun to put money aside for his baby boy behind Serena’s back. Serena wants this baby dead and strikes up a friendship with Galloway after saving his life on the mountain. Galloway is willing to do anything to please Serena and that includes murdering Campbell when he turns into a rat and Rachel for giving birth to George’s kid. When George gets word of all this he turns himself in to Sheriff McDowell in exchange for three days of freedom to get Rachel and the baby to safety. His actions may already be too late as Serena and Galloway have not been seen for two days. George is left to decide whether to stay with his wife or protect his kid, all the while being chased by the cops for running a shady business.
my thoughts: Before I get deep into my thoughts and I tell you how horrible this movie was, here is a little back story. Last Tuesday I saw four movies at the theatre, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Penguins of Madagascar (again), Top Five, and Serena. I only saw Penguins again because I had two hours to kill between movies and it fit in quite nicely. My buddy joined me for Serena because it was a movie he wanted to see with his wife but she couldn’t make it so I agreed to go. After being at the theatre for almost 10 hours, Serena was by far the worse movie I saw of the day and Penguins happen to be the best. I say it was the worse because for 1:49 of my time, this movie dragged along at a snail’s pace and wasted the time of brilliant stars like Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence on such a petty drama.
If any of you have wasted your life to watch Serena, can you please explain to me WHY it was called Serena?? When the credits finally came as the fog rolled in on the mountain side, I looked at my buddy and said why on Earth was this movie called Serena? He said he didn’t know but said this was the slowest movie he’s ever seen.
The plot is interesting for the time period, filled with a lot of hatred, jealousy, and the desire to seek revenge on your closest friends. I have read this film was based on a book which can explain how clear-cut the story is and easy to follow despite it’s really deep undertones. The only thing that excited me about Serena was the connection Cooper and Lawrence had in Silver Linings Playbook. I was hoping to see them light up the screen again with such passionate characters only this time both spend the majority of the movie covering up their mistakes and pasts instead of building upon their dreams. Cooper’s character had no big dreams except moving to Brazil someday and develop the land he got in a steal of a deal, but when Lawrence’s Serena character comes along everything changes. She has a swagger about her that no one likes except George and Galloway who both are willing to turn their lives upside down to please and keep happy. There is something shady about her, the way her parents died, and the way she acts in regards to running her husband’s company. Her lifestyle and manners raise way too many questions amongst the 30 people in town that even her husband grows afraid of her at the end that he is willing to get himself arrested to avoid coming home to her at night.
There is a lot of drama in this movie which does a fantastic job of portraying life in North Carolina back in the 1930s. I enjoyed the scenery, clothing, and the personalities of the characters from that time period. I’m sure this was a good book that appealed to a certain group of readers but I just question why it was given a $25-30 million dollar budget and a theatrical release. If Cooper and Lawrence wanted to go off the charts instead of doing blockbusters like The Hangover and The Hunger Games, they definitely succeeded because so far this movie has made only $3.7 million back in ticket sales.
my final thoughts: According to Box Office Mojo, Serena is slated for a wider release in March 2015. Even if you love Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and hope to see them married on-screen, my advice to you is avoid this movie at all costs because you will be bored out of your mind. When the power couple are not making out or making love, they are doing their best to ruin their own perfect world which turns in a huge cluster that will leave you more frustrated than they are in the story.
my star rating: 2 out 10
imdb: 5.5 out 10
rottentomatoes: 31% out 100%
roger ebert: n/a
richard crouse: 1 out 5