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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Serena movie review: logging for pulp

Serena yellow light

What starts out as solid romantic melodrama — almost Golden Age of Hollywood stuff — gets so crazy so fast in so many ways.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Um, so, yeah: How about them Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper? They are so amazing and gorgeous. And what chemistry! “I think we should be married” is the first thing he says to her in Serena, which is, to be fair, the first thing anyone would say to either of them. And so they are wedded. It’s early Great Depression North Carolina to which lumber magnate George Pemberton (Cooper: Guardians of the Galaxy) brings his new wife, Serena (Lawrence: X-Men: Days of Future Past), where his company is cutting down the last virgin forest in North America. (Bits of the Czech Republic stand in, beautifully, for the Blue Ridge Mountains.) For a while, this is solid melodrama — almost Golden Age of Hollywood stuff — as the “beautiful [but] wounded” Serena becomes an actual business partner with her husband, which is even cooler than it might be otherwise because he is totally into her brains and competence, not just her looks, and as everyone behaves in a wonderfully grownup way when it comes to the child George had previously fathered with a local woman, Rachel (Ana Ularu); whatever happened before they met is in the past, says Serena without rancor; and he’s paying to support the kid. (Though it does all pretty much suck for poor Rachel.) And there’s an intriguing subplot revolving around a push to build a national park right where George is logging, setting up an early clash between jobs and nature, between capitalism and environmentalism. But then it all goes completely batshit in so many ways, like in how pushing the plot forward requires a supremely stupid act by one of the main characters, an unsupported abdication of reason on the part of another, and a finale that is half trashy pulp, half accidental Monty Python. Thanks to Cooper and Lawrence — who remain a lot of fun to spend time with — Serena does at least maintain an entertaining level of batshit to the end.


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Serena (2014)
US/Can release: Mar 27 2015 (VOD Feb 26 2015)
UK/Ire release: Oct 23 2014

BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, sex, injury detail)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • Mother Shabooboo

    The book is the same – starts off all regular Cold Mountain-y and ends up a big pile of WTF.

  • nickmandel

    You’re being kind – an incredible disappointed, simply an awful film. It’s melodramatic drivel, miscast, misdirected and a major missed opportunity.

  • Stu

    You are not biast, you are biased.

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