Serena: Film Review

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I have read a lot about the production issues of this film, which finished filming in 2012, and I think the delay and a number of changes to the direction of the final product has meant it isn’t cohesive and is unsure of what it is trying to be. However, it is slightly redeemed by the acting by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

The duo play Serena and George Pemberton who own a timber company. They bribe officials to prevent their land being repossessed and commit murder when their dodgy dealings are under threat of being revealed.

This film goes in many different directions and it would have been interesting to see what the original vision of this piece was, but it is so unclear here. Serena comes into the timber company after marrying George and swiftly puts her business skills to good use and refuses to act like the lesser woman (it is the 1930s). She is a great feminist figure – fearless, equal to the men and a problem solver – but she loses all her strength when she loses her first child. She never recovers from the loss and becomes this paranoid, weak person who must kill George’s illegitimate child because it makes her feel inferior. It was a bizarre turn for her and the film soon becomes about her personal struggle rather than the situation at the company (which is swept under the rug with little comment).

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Also, George seems like a self-respected businessman who is desperate to save his company at any cost – but you still don’t think he will kill someone. Yet he does. Basically, both characters go places you wouldn’t expect and instead of being pleasantly surprised at the twist, you are just taken back. You don’t give a crap about them because their changes don’t make sense.

It is tonally all over the place – some bits are boring, some should be intense but you don’t feel it – and the genre flits around between drama, to thriller, to melodrama. The third act to this should have been full of suspense but I think the unclear direction throughout weakened it and there was not much at all. Also, I don’t know what the filmmakers were thinking but the panther incident at the end is unintentionally hilarious. I think it is supposed to be deep and symbolic but I just wanted to laugh.

In general, the film itself is a mess but you can still cope with it because Bradley and Jennifer do a good job (although Cooper’s Southern accent comes and goes) and their chemistry is undeniable. The first half was slow but interesting and character building but then everything changes in the second half and doesn’t build into the crescendo you hope. It is a shame because it has the ingredients of an amazing film with an interesting murderous twist but it doesn’t deliver.  I would love to know what the leads think of the final product.

 

Released on Friday 

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