Review: Serena (2014)

Drifting into the canyon of forgotten cinema, like a Carolina cloud over a misty hill.

Serena opens with a collection of lingering landscape shots, and a heavy sigh. The landscape? Beautiful, wispy clouds drape over undulations of forest like damp locks of hair. The heavy sigh? That is emitted by Bradley Cooper, discontented as he looks upon his timber kingdom under the moonlight. Funnily enough, landscape and discontentment isn’t just what Serena opens with, but ends with as well. Only the discontentment isn’t Mr. Cooper’s come the credits – it’s yours.

Serena promises much merely with its two stars – Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are the current darlings of Hollywood. They shuffle amongst unimaginative visuals and stuffy period piece cliches until their vitality and verve is well and truly suffocated. They do their best, and the film’s failings certainly aren’t their fault, but they certainly won’t look upon this entry to their CV with pride.

It all seems confused and under developed. One moment you think you’re watching a pseudo-political period drama, until suddenly you’re struck with a romance. No, a thriller? A mystery? Without going into spoiler-heavy detail, you never quite know who the antagonists are, or why Bradley Cooper is incessantly staring into the middle distance.

Jennifer Lawrence’s titular Serena apparently survived a fire to her childhood home which mercilessly laid waste to her family, leaving both mental and physical scars. But not only do we get no true sense of the mental ones, the physical one isn’t referred to until a good third into the movie. There is no dedication to her back story, and thus there is no logic to the development of the film’s plot, which was clearly designed to be based intrinsically around Serena’s troubled nature.

‘I never thought I’d find you. I never thought I’d find anyone.’ Serena coos to her new hubby, Cooper. But why? For the most part she seems a perfectly normal, strong-willed woman. Whatever ensues just doesn’t fit her set-up.

Serena is an insignificant movie. It will drift into obscurity not only in the history of Cooper and Lawrence’s careers, but also in the mind of anyone who views it.

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