It’s third time unlucky for Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s latest cinematic collaboration, Serena. It may have all the necessary elements to make a sweeping romantic drama but Susanne Bier’s film lacks the requisite spark to make it entertaining.
Cooper is George Pemberton, the owner of a struggling timber company in North Carolina. Things take an upward turn when he meets and marries Serena (Lawrence) but things turn sour when a variety of complications upset their happiness.
Those expecting Cooper and Lawrence to project the same energy they had in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook will be very disappointed. Those David O.Russell films suited their fast-talking delivery but Beir’s film lumbers the pair with stilted delivery and a languid pace. They’re perfectly suited to starring in late 20th Century/21st Century productions but seem out of place in this 1930s set tale. Cooper and Lawrence aren’t necessarily bad, just miscast.
Bier, who had much more success with her last film, the quirky Pierce Brosnan starrer, Love Is All You Need, never gets a grip on the material. She doesn’t seem to get the focus on Christopher Kyle’s script (and adaptation of Ron Rash’s tale) and the film’s many plot elements never get enough attention. It’s as if Bier doesn’t know if the film should be about Lawrence’s Serena or Cooper’s Pemberton and the many satellite characters and their motives only add to this confusion.
The film’s Czech Rebublic locations may look pretty and add en extra level of isolation to Serena’s mental seclusion but Morten Søborg’s grey cinematography never really comes to life. Like the rest of the film, it’s lacking much needed colour to enrich it.
Serena isn’t a total disaster but it’s just a huge disappointment. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s previous collaborations set a high bench mark and Susanne Bier’s film simply fails to live up to it. This could have been an epic old fashioned romance but it just as inert as the lumber at the centre of the film.
The film may be a disappointment but the blu-ray of Serena comes with a good selection of interviews and behind the scenes odds and ends. It shows that everyone was committed to making the film but sadly this didn’t translate onto the screen.