Movie Review - Serena

I'm not sure what this movie is supposed to be. I guess that it's meant to be a cautionary tale against marrying the first pretty face you see or abandoning your pregnant one-night-stand, but it goes about it in a round-about and awful manner. Based on the book by Ron Rash, adapted by Christopher Kyle, and directed by Susanne Bier, there's a lot of missing pieces here. It hasn't enough connective tissue from one section to the next.

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) stars as George Pemberton, a man in 1929 who runs a lumbering company that cuts down trees in the Smoky Mountains and provides wood for others. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) co-stars as Serena Shaw, the daughter of a landowner who also does lumbering in Colorado. He sees her being an equestrian and without a date or spending any time with her, he proposes marriage.

Within two seconds, we see them having sex, again and again. When George brings Serena back to his place in North Carolina, his business partner, Mr. Buchanan, played by David Dencik, is surprised, along with all of George's employees. Because he gives Serena so much power, making her co-manager, the guys could be taken aback due to slight misogyny. The movie then could proceed to take its queue from Giant (1956) or Cold Mountain (2003), but instead the story takes a turn.

Serena implies that Buchanan might be gay and has an interest in George. This doesn't turn out to be the case, but that would have been a far better road to travel than where it actually goes. A love triangle between George, Serena and Buchanan, along with a tug-of-war of control of the lumbering company would have been good.

Instead, Serena is turned crazy after a miscarriage and she becomes super jealous of Rachel, the woman whom George accidentally impregnated prior to his meeting her. Why George abandons Rachel and why Rachel is never given any lines of dialogue with him is never explained. She just becomes this thing on the periphery, waiting to become a damsel-in-distress in the final act.

Toby Jones co-stars as the town sheriff who exists only to show how ineffectual law men can be in this time period. Rhys Ifans plays Galloway, a character who basically becomes Serena's thug. The explanation of why he becomes her thug is ridiculous, but I could go with it. Yet, we're supposed to buy his willingness to do anything for her, even a series of murders, based on one line and a few glances, when there should have been more.

The final action beats would not have been laughable, if there were more between Serena and Galloway. Those final beats also would have been helped by more scenes between George and Rachel. As such, the whole thing falls flat by the end.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for some violence and sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 49 mins.


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