UK Release Date: 24th October 2014
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Susanne Bier
Writer: Christopher Kyle
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, Sean Harris, Toby Jones, Sam Reid
Synopsis: A renowned timber business owner finds his personal and professional life affected by the influence of his striking new wife.
The phrase “developmental hell” is probably overused by film journalists. Any film that experiences a production delay of any time is referred to using the phrase. Many used the term to refer to Susanne Bier’s Depression-era drama Serena, starring pairing of the moment Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who were fresh off Silver Linings Playbook at the time.
Eighteen months after the film wrapped filming, it hits cinemas. Much like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest, there’s no one around to hear it.
George Pemberton (Cooper) is suffering severe financial troubles following the onset of the Great Depression. He instantly falls in love with Serena Shaw (Lawrence) on the day they meet at a social event. Using her surprising experience, she begins to help with the running of the company in an attempt to keep it afloat.
| "I never thought I’d find you. I never thought I’d find anyone."
Serena is every bit as interesting as an economic drama about the timber trade sounds on paper. Director Susanne Bier seems to be far more convinced by the romanticism of her setting than anyone else, content to sweep her camera around as men chop wood… endlessly.
At the centre of all this is the on-screen pairing of the moment – Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The two clearly have chemistry, but the material they are given here is awfully boring, travelling from uninteresting economics to irritating melodrama.
The two protagonists are surrounded by a galaxy of A-list supporting talent, including Rhys Ifans and Toby Jones. These characters are woefully underwritten, so their crucial roles in the story actually end up making very little sense. It feels as if Bier’s year and a half of editing on Serena has led her away from the ensemble and towards a focus on the central pairing at the expense of character depth and logical storytelling.
| "Our love began the day we met. Nothing that happened before even exists."
Bier seems to have become slightly lost in the creative process on Serena. It’s a film that has waved goodbye to its identity in the time between camera and screen. The underlying story has something interesting within it, but Bier has failed to tease that to the surface.
Pop or Poop?
Benefiting from the sizzling chemistry of its two leads, Serena feels like an attempt to cash-in on the stars of the moment at the expense of story.
The script is laboured and free of anything approaching nuance, with some barmy and uneven pacing ruining the final act.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.