“I think you’ve taken nine months to do about six months work.”
It’s funny that Jennifer Lawrence was given this line in a film that took over 18 months to make during post-production because for what it is, this could have been edited much better in two or three months. The narrative feels choppy and instead of focusing on the characters in this period piece they move the narrative from one act to the next without ever giving the audience anything to chew on. This is simply a flat period romance with very little chemistry that misfires on all cylinders (editing, casting, and screenplay). You can’t help but feel that there is another film in here somewhere that got lost in the editing room. Serena seemed to be a film aiming for Oscar gold because it had everything going for beginning from the romantic pairing of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper after their incredible success in Silver Linings Playbook. Add the solid Danish director, Susanne Bier (In a Better World), and a script based on Ron Rash’s 2008 novel to the mix and Serena seemed to be a sure bet. I had high expectations for it and many were already including it as a contender for next year’s Academy Award even before it finished being produced. How could a film like this end up being so forgettable and predictable at the same time? I’d guess the blame relies on the producers who tried to cash in on Lawrence and Cooper’s success by centering the film on the romance instead of focusing on the other interesting cast members. The romance never works here because the characters are never fully developed so there is no way we can invest in their relationship. The amazing chemistry these two actors had in their previous film is completely wasted here. Everything about this film seemed disconnected and I am sure it won’t live up to the aspirations the producers and critics had for Serena.
I have genuinely enjoyed all of Jennifer Lawrence’s performances up to this film. The setting in the woods reminded me of the first time I saw J-Law in Winter’s Bone, a film so richly invested in character development that I was expecting her to deliver another outstanding performance. That comparison to Winter’s Bone only ended up disappointing me. She is extremely over the top in this film and the emotional scenes she gets are never believable. The scenes where she breaks down and cries were painful to watch. Bradley Cooper loses his charm as well, but I guess the blame relies on the script. If you are trying to deliver a strong romantic period piece you have the right actors to do so, but the script doesn’t help build the romance. Bradley Cooper’s character catches up to J-Law on a horse and asks her to marry him and then they are married. The entire film felt sort of chopped up and fast forwarded to the key parts of the story without taking time to give the characters any depth. About 15 minutes into the movie I knew where everything was heading and it was a huge disappointment for me because I expected a lot more from this film. The secondary cast is interesting, but unfortunately very little time is given to these characters. Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, and David Dencik are extremely talented actors and I wish the script would’ve given them more time. Unfortunately Christopher Kyle’s script misses the mark at every turn. The only positive thing about Serena was Morten Søborg's beautiful cinematography.