Lets begin by getting the positive notes out of the way:
Visually, Serena is nicely polished. It’s not particularly distinct in its photography, but Depression-Era North Carolina itself is recreated with enough detail in terms of its costume design and art direction that at least the setting of the film feels real…..it’s just a shame that nothing else about the film does. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence gives it her level best, whilst Bradley Cooper is solid if unspectacular. But that, unfortunately, is about where the compliments end.
With Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) and the reigning queen of Hollywood, Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), reuniting for Serena following their wildly successful pairing in Silver Linings Playbook (2012), little could it have been known how horribly wrong it could go. To explain the plot of the film is quite a tricky thing, as despite the reasonable runtime, not all that much happens. Actually, a fair amount does happen, it’s just that we rarely actually get to see it.
Bradley Cooper plays George Pemberton, a timber tycoon (who knew that was a thing?) who falls deeply in love with Lawrence’s Serena, a ballsy and brash woman with a dark past. They meet, we jump forward in time, and they are in love (apparently). But all is not well in their relationship, as Serena is unable to bear the child they so dearly desire, and in the meantime she lives in envy of a woman who fell pregnant with Pemberton’s child after a brief engagement between the two. What then proceeds is a further hour or so of sex montages and melodrama, rounded off with a pretty absurd ending, and that’s your lot.
The problem is, nothing is earned. George and Serena are in love simply because. Wild leaps forward in time undercut any natural progression of the story and the relationships between the characters, leaving a hollow husk of a mildly interesting set up remaining. There are some talented people involved for sure, but even their best efforts aren’t able to escalate Serena from the storytelling mire it finds itself in by its end. Between director Susanne Bier (In a Better World), Lawrence and Cooper, there is a combined total of six Academy Award nominations, and two wins – sadly Serena doesn’t come anywhere near the high levels they have set themselves previously.
A missed opportunity on all fronts, Serena is doomed to be long forgotten, and deservedly so.
Rating (out of 5):