Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, Sean Harris, Sam Reid, David Dencik
Running Time: 109 minutes
After being pleasantly surprised by the partnership of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper for David O. Russell’s SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, one of my highlights of 2012, I had an open mind when it came to reviewing Susanne Bier’s SERENA. However, while Lawrence and Cooper made sweet, ballroom magic in the former, not much can be said for the latter.
Set in Depression-era North Carolina, Cooper features as wealthy timber businessman George Pemberton, a local Lothario keen to produce a son to carry on his empire. Enter Serena Shaw (Lawrence), glamorous horse-rider and orphan, due to a fire engulfing her family home. The pair bond over their love of the great outdoors and soon get married, much to the disapproval of Pemberton’s employees. However, while the couple try many times to conceive, George’s hopes are dashed…until a former maid comes back to work.
As expected, Jennifer shines throughout. Starting off as the glamorous-but-damaged Serena, first seen elegantly riding on horseback, her performance astounds. As it’s revealed she may not be able to have children after all, her desperation takes over, slowly chipping away at the flawless facade, revealing a femme-fatale inner core. The same goes for Bradley as George; while he may begin as a debonair gentleman, as his inner turmoil takes over he transforms into an uncontrollable mad-man, quick with his anger and even faster with a blade/gun.
The powerful performances, partnered with the beautiful cinematography and scenery, make for a potentially brilliant film. However, sadly, the narrative is a huge let down. The deterioration of the characters is predictable, with Lawrence’s end scene typical of the noir genre, which SERENA borrows heavily from. Aside from Jennifer and Bradley, the other characters seem to fall away alongside the plot.
To look at, SERENA (much like its title character) is beautiful. But dig a little deeper and there’s not much there (unlike, I’d like to point out, Lawrence herself).
[usr=3] SERENA is available on DVD from 23rd February.