Serena (2014) Poster

(I) (2014)

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Astounding Downfall
billygoat10716 March 2015
Whatever resulted Serena can be enigmatic. Visually, the movie has a lot of beautiful shots. There's also great talents among the cast. The story seems like it is meant for a powerful tragedy, but these assets however lead to a rather dreary, unfocused drama, that doesn't quite live up to its ambition. Even with the looks of a grand and dazzling piece of cinema, the film doesn't come close with that worth. And it's a truly frustrating thing to look at a movie with such strong potential become a strange mess.

The story is basically an old fashioned American drama about a man, who manages a timber industry, oppresses his ambition that leads to numerous unfortunate events. The core here is a love story in which its romance is often nonexistent, we hardly get to see how they fully develop their relationship. But there is still an interesting growth within these rich details. But the movie is too scattered with various subplots that each takes over the entirety. There is too many conflicts, like they are mostly separated into a whole new different story, unable to say a single or definite point. The third act becomes a weird flood of consequences that doesn't necessarily gain any deserving depth.

There is so much going on with the story, the film also manages to shift it into several tones. It goes to art-house calmness, a showy drama, and then even has a preposterous climax. The worst of it indeed never fits in to its stunning production values. The film seems to be too reliant on what it has. It has captivating cinematography, impressive production, and even the actors are just doing what they believe they can do to make this movie work. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are the main attraction here, while they try to bring something to the table, the movie remains to be dreary for not letting the two have an actual engaging moment together. The pacing is reasonably slow, but sometimes it becomes an obligation than another moment to thoughtfully breathe.

Serena is a pretty strange film to encounter, one that has its best potentials fall apart into a surprisingly dull cinema. It's still fascinating to see what it has: great cast, striking images, richly defined context, and gripping drama (if only it has more time to actually develop them), but it really doesn't have an exact intention. And the story keeps on going, still failing to be actually engaging. This is an obvious lesson about creating cinematic drama, when things needed real definition on what's going on and who the characters are, than just throwing them away with stuff that could gloss over its half- baked narrative. Even the presence of the ever appealing Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper couldn't overlook the entire film's unimaginable flaws.
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James_De_Bello30 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
One of the most angry experiences I've ever had in a cinema. For a movie that is literally about nothing, that makes no point and had no dramatic core I was surprised that I could take at least a couple of things from it.

It does have a number of intense scenes that unfortunately stop making their way into the movie after half of the movie's duration. There is a very good reason for why these scenes have an impact and why the whole movie actually din't feel excruciating. That would be the cinematography. It is totally, absolutely gorgeous. The lighting is impeccable, the composition perfectly balanced and color is used to paint beautiful images. Thanks to this high-standard photography and the talent of its leads, "Serena" has the merit of bringing about 11-12 minutes to the screen of good material.

The remaining 95 minutes unfortunately are rubbish. When I'm saying that the movie has nothing to say I am 100% honest. It does not make any f**king statement. Moreover, there isn't a story, there simply isn't. I couldn't make heads or tails of what were they going for. It is so bluntly and arrogantly thinking its dealing with deep thematics and profound drama that it made me even angrier, I actually kicked the seat in front of me time and time again in desperation. The scirpt and the editing of the film are garbage. The first is melodramatic to the point of comedic, problem is it doesn't reach quite that level of exaggeration so instead of being so bad its good it ended up being plain out bad. The second is all over the place. Scenes are stringed together randomly and they don't take us to any place 90% of time. You'll be asking yourself "Why am I f***king watching this?!" infinite times. About one third of the movie is Cooper and Lawrence making out, having sex, looking emptily at one another or telling each other " I love you". I really had an overdose of the worst sentimentalism on the planet. The emotional and dramatic core of the movie are forgotten. Sometimes I thought that the director must have been joking with me in asking me to take seriously and emotionally this characters after the montage at the start. The score is as bad as everything above, it is manically manipulative and added a whole other significance to the word "cringe". Characters are in the movie for no particular reason and they are so badly defined that they made Cooper, Lawrence and Jones look bad actors. There's some talent there man! You're making single handedly look bad three of the best actors in the business. Hats off for that!

I hate this movie. The more I think about it angrier I get. Thank God, there were some very good scenes in there because with those missing and with no amazing cinematography I would have probably walked out of the theater for the first time in my life.
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You took 18 months to do about 2 months work producers!
estebangonzalez103 December 2014
"I've 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.
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Surprisingly Bad.
Jason_Stinnett13 March 2015
I don't normally post reviews because one man's trash may be another man's treasure. However I don't see how many people could like this movie. I'm a big Cooper/Lawrence fan so I had lofty expectations. the first bad thing I noticed were the many many cuts. It was as if they were trying to piece a movie together from random 5 second snippets. the next thing I noticed was the very shaky cinematography. At times it was like cloverfield. OK not as bad but visually disturbing. Next was continuity. Bradley cooper's character has an unlit cigar in his mouth speaking to JLaw. Cut to her saying her line. cut right back to him and the cigar is lit and he's smoking it. Unlikely but plausible so I'll allow it. Cut back to her then right back to him and he's lighting the cigar. One of the worst cases of continuity I have ever seen. Well maybe until this. From the start Cooper has a thick accent. Spot on JFK to be exact. I'll buy it. 35 minutes into it his accent is completely gone. No accent whatsoever. I don't know if it ever cam back because I turned it off after that. Truly a black eye for two great actors.
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Did they read the book first?
BarbNY8149 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Having read, and enjoyed, Ron Rash's novel I am not sure what I saw on the screen. I don't know who is to blame -- the director, the editor or the screen writer. They did not stick to the book so if you liked the book, this film is not it. I blame the screen writer; what made him think he could write a better story and Susanna Bier for taking on this project and then dropping it for 18 months?

They added people not in the book or changed roles of those in the book and changed other details attributed to different characters, using up time that could have been better spent on real character development. Spent too much time on the back story when it could have been explained, as in the book, when Pemberton brings Serena home he tells of how they met and married. There did not need to be a scene.

The important theme -- jealousy -- was not developed. Jennifer Lawrence changes from one scene to the next, with no development of her descent into madness. The dramatic escape by Rachel and baby was hardly there and in the book it was gripping how she struggled to stay one step ahead of Galloway.

Surprisingly, there was little to no attempt at a southern accent except by Tobe Jones and by Rhys Ifans, no one else even tried -- Lawrence being excused.

Sean Harris, who is known to be real intense on a film set, acted like he could have phoned in his lines, making no attempt at channeling one particular accent and mumbling (probably too embarrassed to say the lines). He looked like he did not want to be there any longer than he had to be there. Cooper was not comfortable in the role and also looked like he would rather be any place else. When first cast, some predicted this would happen because neither Cooper nor Lawrence had any experience with a period piece.

I gave it a 2 because the actors showed up. It truly was awful, and I think they knew it. Why would they have not given Lawrence the screen time to slowly slip over the edge? The film's denouement is not what Ron Rash wrote at all. Read the book -- it is so much better.

This film cost $25-30 million to make (a decent sum) for a film with no set, barely. Obviously, no one who worked on the film read the book -- the screen writer certainly did not.
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Disappointing adaptation:
CharlieGreenCG23 October 2014
Serena has had quite a hard time so far. Filmed in 2012, it has been shelved for over a year and half due to apparent scheduling. But finally, after all that time it has come to light at this year's BFI London Film Festival for a world-premiere! But it does raise the question, is it a hidden gem that we have been long-desiring? Or is it so bad that it has was hidden on purpose? Unfortunately it appears to be the later.

Considering that is has two A-list on screen regulars; Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, the film is surprisingly dissatisfying. Set in North Carolina in the Depression era, the film accounts the perspective of George Pemberton (Cooper) and his wood-plantation empire. That is until he meets Serena (Lawrence), when he suddenly suggests 'we should be married' - and they immediately do. In fairy- tales this is expected, but in a reality period drama it is loose and leaves no belief in their relationship. As a result, throughout the events of the film we have no attachment to them at all.

Once on board with Pemberton's wood-empire, Serena does not want to just be a trophy-wife, but instead gets hands-on involved in the dirty business end and is not afraid to throw some axes.

Form there onwards the film repeats the same formula over again: Romance, wood-chopping, politics - repeat. It is a tedious cycle with the all-so often subplots appearing that have no registration to the already flimsy story.

Also featuring; Rhys Ifans (as the bearded hit-man), Toby Jones (as Sheriff McDowell) and Sean Harris (as a wood-chopper), the film shockingly concludes with a melodrama on misplacement and seems unsure of where it is going, or what genre it even is.

If there was one positive thing to be said about Serena, it would be the six sex scenes between Cooper and Lawrence. But even then, the chemistry between them is tightly bound compared to their previous on-screen duos (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle).

Directed by Academy-Award winning Susanne Bier and penned by Christopher Kyle, it is hard to find who is exactly to blame. Is it the direction of the story? Either way it is a disappointing adaptation.
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An iconic field that diverges from Hollywood formulas
Blackbird013-127 January 2016
To be honest I am only writing this review because the film has had such a negative reception. I want to make a few things clear.

This film rather than following the Hollywood formula is more true to life in the sense that some European films have been. Life isn't always exciting, sometimes it can be brooding rather than fast paced with flashy cars and "cool" props being used to polish up perception.

I would classify this as historical fiction in the sense that most films with a historical setting have a lot of flash and posturing. This film offers a view of the less glamorous times during the depression. It gives you a glimpse of the issues through the plot rather than show you first hand. Some elements are true to Hollywood such as perfectly clean main characters but conceptually this film seems like a simple slice of life.

One person said you ended up not liking anyone. I think that's the entire point of the film. It's dark, brooding, and it has things to say about the nature of people and life without offering the flash and allure of a visually stunning or fun filled film. Many can't understand the setting (the depression) and might not understand the hard choices people made between survival and dreams which still relates to current life in many ways.

I found the plot believable and think it's a good film for the deeper thinkers and realistic story lovers. Although poetic, it substitutes flash for substance. Instead of looking for something action packed or something to cuddle up with just accept it for what it is. It's unlikely to be pleasant for the light hearted.
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From hard shot of Appalachian shine into Mountain Dew
josie-7376811 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Ron Rash's extraordinary novel could easily be described as a cross between MacBeth and There Will Be Blood. It is a deeply nuanced exploration of human compulsion, vicious ambition, and ultimately, evil. It is a multi-dimensional, compelling, profound and disturbing story by a man who probably knows the dark corners of Appalachia like no other living author.

So I approached the film knowing that the source material held the potential for cinematic greatness – a possible modern classic. What I found, unfortunately, was a totally vapid, dumbed down, politically correct attempt to turn the character Serena (truly evil and vicious from the get-go in the book) into an admirable feminist "macho woman" who comes unravelled as the result of a miscarriage. Various other story elements have also been manipulated and severely distorted in the movie to make Serena more likable and understandable, especially the ending, which is a totally mindless departure from the book.

The same is true of George, her husband. In the book, he is a completely egocentric robber baron, hell bent on destroying the Carolina wilderness for his own gain. He is enthralled by Serena's power, even though she ultimately turns on him. There is nothing soft or decent about him. He's entirely about power, domination and control (with the sole exception of caring for his illegitimate son).

These are characters with extreme personalities, of a type that today we'd call sociopathic and psychopathic. Today we'd consider them sick and put them on meds or lock them up. Yet, historically, these were the standard personality types that drove the robber baron mentality of the era depicted in the film. At that time (and farther in the past), society tolerated far more extreme public behavior from the powerful than we do today.

Unfortunately, both the screenwriter and director seem to be in way over their heads and to have totally missed this point. They've taken irrational human evil from a bygone era and tried to psychologize it into acceptable, understandable 2015-style human frailty. What Ron Rash courageously depicted with unflinching reality in his book, the makers of this film have gutted and diluted into a gorgeous soap opera. They've turned a double proof hard shot of Appalachian shine into Mountain Dew.

If I could give this movie half a star, I would. I give it one star for its wonderful production values and design, which are truly Oscar-worthy. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are totally wasted here. I hope they've deleted this one from their resumes…
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Serena is a ferociously sloppy film that's misfires on all fronts.
Sergeant_Tibbs26 October 2014
Trainwreck is a strong word. Average is another strong word. Mediocre sounds about right. Serena isn't necessarily a film that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence should concern themselves with burying, it'll be forgotten at the bottom of the bargain bin in no time, but it's not something to be proud of either. Director Susanne Bier, whose 2010 film In A Better World won the Foreign Language Oscar, just doesn't seem to know what to do with the material and it's a tonal catastrophe. Set in Depression-era North Carolina, the story focuses on entrepreneurial newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton, played by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence respectively, as they struggle to maintain their timber empire in the face of betrayal from their closest allies. Life becomes complicated as Serena cannot bear children, but before they met George had already impregnated one of his maids. It's a power struggle of greed and corruption between all involved and leaves a startlingly bloody trail. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lawrence's performance is all over the place, up the walls and on the ceiling. However, it's not necessarily her fault. She has more understanding of Serena than Bier seems to have and ultimately she's at odds with how her character is presented. Lawrence plays Serena cold, robotic, calculating, to the point where she seems disinterested. She's a sociopathic and manipulative character. But Bier wants our hearts to ache with pity when she's on screen, emotions difficult to muster when it works better on a psychological level. A slight tonal adjustment more aligned to the way Lawrence is playing could make our skins crawl when we see her, and be much more compelling for it. As a result, Lawrence just feels way off. Random bursts of tears and screams don't help consistent characterization, not even fitting to the mould of the sociopath. The editing isn't her friend. The film is littered with continuity errors and she amusingly keeps darting across Cooper's shoulder. Their chemistry is as tender as ever, their sweeping romance is much less so thanks to skimming over every detail. The film would've been a decent (if mild) psychological thriller if it played its cards right and wasn't concerned with any sentiment. But would Lawrence have been better if the style was adjusted? Perhaps slightly. The complaints about her not fitting the time period are valid, but not glaring. As an actress, she's still unpolished potential, and has at least improved since she shot Serena, but Bier's direction fails her. Not to completely blame others, her character is a disaster on everybody's shoulders. However, in the film's third act it does come to its senses and finally realizes what kind of story it is, but the execution is still very weak, lacking any tension or spatial awareness on how to shoot its most kinetic scenes. It feels like there is a decent film buried underneath there somewhere with all its dynamics, maybe a couple more drafts away, maybe a couple more takes, maybe a more intuitive editor behind the wheel. But the potential is lost. Perhaps a road closer to Foxcatcher's gritty authentic realm would've made for a more engrossing film, but that tone is far from its interests and selling points. On the other hand, Cooper is solid. Nothing great, he too has evidently improved since the shoot. He's easy to buy as this character of someone who could have the power to run an empire, and be the type of person who would fall for Serena and eventually be manipulated by her. His acting process as he confronts his moral dilemmas is laid entirely on screen, given that the film offers many shots of him just thinking. But he's immersed enough in the character to make it work. He is a touch too unlikeable to invest in given his corruption, but he makes the whole thing a lot more watchable than it could've been. Alas, peripheral characters are starved of development. Most glaringly is Ana Ularu, ostensibly a key character as the mother of Cooper's child, and she's given literally nothing to do but share venomous glares with Jennifer Lawrence. Rhys Ifans is solid, but his character is written too idiotically to take seriously. Toby Jones toes a fine line between being too self-aware, but it's David Dencik who is the most radiant of the cast in his screen time. Not that he's a fascinating character, just happens to have the most convincing conviction of the ensemble. I want to time travel back to their set and leave the crew a tripod because if there's any way to devalue millions of dollars of (lovely) production and costume design it's giving the camera to Jimmy Tremble Fingers. It's like a Kathryn Bigelow film, constantly but only slightly shaking with the camera settings making the frame flicker every other shot. The film is void of any cinematic atmosphere. It's such a shame because when the second unit shoots the astonishing static vistas of the Smokey Mountains it gives me hope that it could be an attractive film. But there's no grace to be found otherwise. Serena is just a ferociously sloppy film. The biggest sin is how it enters dark territory without embracing it, feeling as though it's in denial of how brutal its story truly is. The attempts to be poetic in its imagery are laughable and the film often ruins decent moments with trite cringe- worthy lines. Nevertheless, it isn't an unbearable film, if 'not always bad' can be a compliment. There will be some people who can ignore these flaws and like it for what it is. It doesn't quite deserve the lashing it's suffered so far, but lets just quietly put it back on the shelf. 4/10
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I laughed and I cried - becauce I watched the darn thing!
ArchonCinemaReviews25 February 2015
If a film has Academy Award nominated actors, is based off a New York Times bestseller, it can still be a crap movie. We present to you: Serena.

Serena is a bunch of melodramatic nonsense masked as a worthy Hollywood feature film – when in reality it is just a bigger budgeted soap opera set in a historical time period.

George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is trying to build a timber empire in North Carolina in 1929. While in the Northeast he meets a captivating woman named Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) and marries her. Together, the newly married couple return to North Carolina and pursue the venture together, Serena being the ever proficient business partner. Their saga and dramatics for success is the basis of the narrative within this film.

Anyone who has read the novel Serena by Ron Rash should be deeply disappointed by the film adaptation by screenwriter Christopher Kyle and director Susanne Bier. I'm disappointed and all I did was read the summary of the novel after watching the film, and all I can say is "woof, Cliffnotes, eat your heart out." Serena is a tragedy of editing, direction, screen writing, and acting all with a pretty paint job to delude viewers into thinking the drama is adequate.

With so much wrong in the film it is hard to differentiate whose shoulders must bear the brunt of the blame. Surely the starting point for the film is the script, and Kyle's is devoid of suspense, tension and drama. The dialogue does nothing to progress the plot in a feasible manner so director Susanne Bier must, like a magician, attempt to cultivate it from thin air. Not to say her attempt is admirable either, the gritty drama about greed set in the dense forest of North Carolina has no mood, no vision and is plainly shot with a vividity that exacerbates Serena's lifelessness.

Speaking of lifeless, moving on to the lead performers of this film: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Neither both to develop their characters in any fashion. Both Cooper and Lawrence are hollow mannequins going through the motions – no greed, no hate, no love, no passion, no motivation, no flaws, no self, no soul. Admittedly, they are severely miscast for their roles but the level at which they falter is startling.

The only entertainment received from watching Serena is from laughing at this allegedly dramatic film that fails to engage its viewer. Serena is uninspired and dreadfully cliché – watch out for some hilariously poor sex scenes and side-splitting 'emotional breakdowns'. Serena is so poorly done, from all angles, its a marvel the film even managed an internet release in the States.

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Not Bewitching
rcastl233523 April 2015
Despite the oddly virulent reviews of Serena posted on this site, Serena is not a bad film, simply a dull one. Beautiful cinematography (it was filmed in the Czech Republic) and costume design can't hide the flaws of the director's decisions. The film is weirdly static, with no flow from scene to scene. Because of that, the actors aren't allowed to build their performances, actions seem simply to happen and no point of view is made or advanced. The famed Lawrence/Cooper chemistry is notably absent because of this directorial decision. There are births, deaths, accidents with no relation in the larger scheme of the movie. Lawrence is stunning in the period costumes, Rhys Ifans virtually unidentifiable in the best performance of Serena and Bradley Cooper continues his aversion to razors as the stubble-faced husband/owner of the logging company. (BTW: this appearance is notably out of sync for a period piece. No business owner in the first half of the 20th century would appear in public with a 2 day growth of whiskers.)Coming off the previous successes of the Lawrence/Cooper team, this film is a failure that can only be laid at the director's feet. It's a shame that their work is dissipated in this way.
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Even when celebrity fails
omersjjd6 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Added this movie into watch-list since it was rumored and I remember the day even IMDb info page was sort of blank. I kept waiting for it like for year or less.

I might be one of the most loyal fan of this couple Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence plus the old/vintage/cowboys/country-side scene movies are usually my favorites, because it always result in some master piece.

After watching this movie I feel sorry to myself and hence wrote the title of "even when academy award winner+nominee celebrities fail". This movie represented beautiful scenes, slow-EST moving clouds, forceful attempt of representing timber business more like mafia. More importantly, movie's central line was "HOW DEVASTATING JUST A MARRIAGE COULD BE". Cooper's everything has been shattered just by bringing his wife to the town.

I must say the story wasn't strong enough to attract even I failed to advocate my favorite stars. Production house should go and start some other business.
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Could be more focused
Gordon-119 February 2015
This film tells the story of a timber tycoon in a rural place, whose life drastically changes after marrying a girl who lost her family to a devastating fire when she was twelve.

I watched "Serena" at once after getting my hands on it. The pairing of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence could not be wrong, I thought. The plot is all about Serena, and is roughly in three parts, thee first showing Jennifer Lawrence in a confident mode, the second showing her in distress and the third showing her in callousness. Jennifer Lawrence does well to portray these qualities, but the main problem is that she's too young and beautiful to be in such a role. Think Nicole Kidman in "Cold Mountain".

On the other hand, Bradley Cooper is believable as a tycoon. Lighting effects are great as well. Story telling could be more focused though, as there are scenes which don't lead to anywhere, such as the scene where there's an accident involving someone slipping next to a tree. Overall, I think "Serena" is an OK film but it isn't as thrilling or engaging as it could be.
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Strong and remarkable
Predrag7 November 2015
I usually write a review only when my opinion drastically differentiates from what I find already contributed - when there's a dire need to tip the scale. And there is one here, to save this incredible film from the lynch mob.

This atmospheric dark period romance set in an unusual stage has a lot of human drama to offer. And this is what S. Bier is known at excelling. And pouring it on, which obviously irritates some part of the audience. But it is all done with a lot of taste for timing, with a good and fresh modern editing which disposes of most needless parts of the action and instead rather reserves that time for us to think about it all during the breaks of foggy Smoky Mountains scenery. (Obfuscation plays a leading role here, and this landscape couldn't be a better choice.)

Film is layered with appropriately somber music used/mixed with subtlety, and likewise its gorgeous photography has been wonderfully appreciated by the edit which understands its visual potential. This is one of those rare instances where a pattern of hand-held closeups doesn't seem gratuitous, but does manage to bring us closer to the characters. Beside this being the result of the strong characters themselves, it is also a combination of a slower, not-frenetic pace, with a lot of static masters too.

While there might be some unbelievable decisions the characters make in this story, we need to remind ourselves that instead of treating this as a negative, these are the emotional extremes we should be welcoming, in an emotional rawness which needs appreciation. At the end, it is an emotional and symbolic theater in which all the elements and symbols have and live to deliver their wonderfully intertwined meanings.
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A Misfire of being a great movie
MattBrady0997 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Talking about a big backfire this movie was, I mean just wow.

The story is about (Bradley Cooper) and his fiercely independent, entrepreneurial-minded wife Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) following a devastating miscarriage. A woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind and relishes the opportunity for manual labor in the forest, the enigmatic Serena subsequently grows intensely jealous of the woman who previously bore her husband a son, and quickly begins to unravel over suspicions that Pemberton is sheltering his illegitimate family.

Okay every year you always get that early Oscar Buzz in about I don't know February or March, of films that are not even out yet but people predict it's going to be great just by some little photos or the 20 sec trailer for the film. Movies like Jersey Boys, Into the Woods and now this movie, which this was originally suppose to get a lot of Oscar Nominations, but when the reviews finally came in... it get's nothing and hey I won't blame them, this movie is god awful.

Serena is a depressing, not very well acted, lazily edited movie with some weak directing. The movie doesn't really hold my interest at times because I almost nodded off with boredom watching this movie, and I think it's the way the movie is written, it's not really well written at all. With scenes of dialogue that feel flat and been done before in much better films than this.

The thing that made my jaw dropped with shock of how bad it was in this movie is the editing, I mean my god this is some of the worst editing I've seen in years. It's so chopper and scenes that just go by so quick, if I was watching this movie and then I dropped something on the floor and while I'm getting it and sitting back up I would think I missed about 35 minutes of this movie, but no it's just the rush editing that's all.

The director of this movie Susanne Bier doesn't really look like she give a damn about this movie, because they are loads of scenes that are easy to spot has mistakes and she just overlooked them, and yes there are many directors out there that miss a lot of mistakes in their movies, but in this with the messy editing and the very poorly written script, how can you miss all that?.

Now dose this movie have it's good and I can yeah (Only some): The way the movie looks is actually pretty to look at and the cinematography is just spot on great. The sets as well looked like it to for ever and probably hours to put together and I give them that for trying, but doesn't change the fact that this is pretty awful movie.

Overall Serena has I said before feels like a big misfire of being something great and worthy of watching, but no.
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summerinertia7 May 2015
As an independent film director, it makes me sick that films like these are still being funded and made by incompetent, crappy writers/directors. There is so much directorial talent out there that don't have the expenses to make it big, whilst bad directors like the one who made this film continue to bring out and recycle rubbish through Hollywood. Nothing to say about the film... its just awful, but I will continue since I need a minimum length of 10 lines to submit to review. Don't EVER watch this movie, even if its free on TV, you will want you 1-2 hours back....

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It leaves the audience wondering how such production only bears mediocre drama, instead of actually investing on its inconsistent plot.
quincytheodore16 August 2015
For a movie that boasted high caliber actors and fine cinematography, it's amazing how Serena only amounts to plain drama the level of weekend TV show. The story is weak, subplots are disjointed and characters develop with awkward pacing only to end up with heavy-handed approach for motivation. It may be even worst that even nice production cannot elevate it from mediocrity.

Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) is an orphan who marries with a rich tycoon Pemberton (Bradley Cooper). Fate has it that the enigmatic woman possess hidden manipulative nature, borderline conniving if needs be. The premise might have worked, considering the two leads have produced better movies separately or together, but instead audience is left with exhausting attempt for thriller.

It introduces a few angles then changes pace entirely, not to mention the ordeal they are going through is told in sporadic manner. There is a good build up early on, but the cumulative plot holes and messy storytelling ruin it, especially towards the second half where it crumbles into mix of boring and forced conclusion.

This is unfortunate since Serena does have good visual. It fits the time period well, and even though it sets in mostly remote forest, it still produces quaint ambiance. The actors try, yet their characters are stale. There's not much depth to draw sympathy and the way it shifts between subplots feel fragmented. Many of its supposedly dramatic scenes are followed with lots of foreshadowing or simply become overly melodramatic.

Its presentation and effort keep it from utterly failing, I do see some merits, so it's not flat out 1 star. However, having good presentation yet still produces poor result is far from proud accomplishment.
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Stupid film
oreliaxo20 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the most pointless films I've ever seen in my life. First of all, the two main characters Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, have absolutely NO chemistry on the screen as a couple. These two were bored with each other and you could tell. Second of all, the script is ABSOLUTELY horrendous. Guy sees random pretty girl riding a horse and follows her and says "I'm gonna marry you" girl responds with a "teehee" and they both gallop away in the sunrise. Does this sound intriguing or even realistic in anyway whatsoever? I DON'T THINK SO. Don't even get me started on the "plot". George's most trusted right hand man Mr.Buchanon betrays him for a deal and you see that's when things turn serious. What happens the next day? Mr.Buchanon goes hunting with George. WHO DOES THAT? Why would a man who just betrayed you for a deal go out hunting with you when he's clearly on your bad side now? Just way way too predictable and silly. I can't even finish this review because everything else was so stupid - do yourself a favor and don't watch this film!
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Not Every Book Should be Turned into a Movie
uncle_paco13 June 2015
My main gripe with Serena was the editing. There were several scenes that conveyed absolutely no movement in the plot. Some continuity problems persisted throughout the film. Direction was also to blame, with long, slow scenes, then with brief shots that seemed jerky by comparison. Some of the scenes were inexplicable, like how exactly did the title character train an eagle? A montage might have been employed. But that would have required some semblance of a musical score. Another of my gripes. I am a fan of Cooper and Lawrence, but it seems that the producer was only interested in the star power and not in making a memorable movie.
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Its like a
nedroj6821 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
TV series without a punchline.Nicely filmed and so on ,but the plot....come on....get the f.u.c.k out of here. Thats so lame. My tip is: download this s.h.i.t and if you like it. buy it. Ill never gonna buy this ,never. If you are like me you know what ill mean. Ill buy every single movie ill think is worth to see more than once. This is not one of them. And now i have to fill this gap with utterly bull so that my post will be accepted. So..yeah.I really like Jennifer in her other roles. But this was like to put a housekeeper in a skyscraper and don't give her the tools to work with. You know what i mean if you know Jennifer as an actress.Its a bit sad for the director ,but hey you are in Hollywood now what the heck did you think.
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Deserves better reputation
minik_ha16 December 2014
Saw this movie because firstly my admiration of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence working well together in Silver Lining's Playbook, and secondly the bad reputation, so I gave it a shot and showed my support and went to the cinema to watch it. I must say I was positively surprised how well it was done based on the genre of the movie, the story captures well how love can be affected by desperate actions that doesn't have to take place to protect what you've got. Now, I don't know what the other reviewers expected from it or what they think the movie lacks of, maybe it's because of the main characters star status, that they are expected to entertain the mass with blockbuster recipe, where it's not only about drama.. Well, for those who haven't seen it, give it a shot and enjoy it for it's genre. Simply had to write a review, because it deserves better.
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I wouldn't say it was Horrendous,, it's just a movie that deserved 4/10 out of pity.
Aktham_Tashtush15 March 2015
So yeah the cast is again Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence so i was expecting more passionate story at least at the level of "Silver Linings Playbook" but it was so disappointing.

The story is just hollow and deceitful in a way,, in the trailer was kinda misleading with all of that load sensational music :P

The plot is okay but it was short and fast,, didn't feel any excitement or any unpredictability.

The love making scenes between "Pemberton" and "Serena" was okay scenes but it was like "fast-forward please".

The Set and the location was okay ,, hard to figure out why they made it in Czech Republic !!! i mean like why !!! nothing was that special..

overall the movie already got 5.5 on here which somehow seems about right,, didn't get any awards or nominations so far,,,

so it all been as expected.
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A promising combination of cast and director, undone by a bland script that seems to care little for its characters.
shawneofthedead31 December 2014
As a movie, Serena had a lot going for it. It marks the reunion of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as an on screen couple, their talents and chemistry now turned towards drama rather than the comedy that brought them both plenty of critical acclaim. (See: Silver Linings Playbook.) The film is also directed by Susanne Bier, an Oscar- winning Danish director known for her tender, thoughtful treatment of domestic tragedy. In theory, the final product should soar. Instead, it sinks, drowning in a strange melancholy that does neither its characters nor its audience any favours.

In Depression-era North Carolina, George Pemberton (Cooper) struggles to keep his fledgling timber business afloat. His efforts are complicated by the arrival of his new wife, Serena (Lawrence). Smart, tough and resourceful, Serena refuses to give in to the casual discrimination of the many male workers in her husband's employ. Soon, she's alienated Buchanan (David Dencik), George's erstwhile right- hand man, and intrigued Galloway (Rhys Ifans), a local woodsman inclined towards the superstitious. Serena swears to George that his previous romantic dalliances mean nothing to her, but things take a turn for the dark and bitter when she starts to doubt her ability to bear her husband an heir.

For the most part, Serena is undone by its bland script by Christopher Kyle. The budding romance between George and Serena unfolds via shorthand: they meet and flirt on horseback and, suddenly, they're married. Thereafter, it becomes a little easier to see why George is enamoured of Serena - she stands tall in an unfriendly environment, and refuses to back down in the face of tradition and bias. But it's harder to see why Serena cares for George. Instead of taking the time to colour a little depth and complexity into their relationship, Kyle trades genuine, heartfelt conversation for frequent scenes of steamy sex.

It doesn't help, either, that the film hasn't really lavished enough time on turning its leads into credible characters before it veers into darker, more inexplicable territory. Serena morphs from feminist to femme fatale in a poor echo of what happens in Ron Rash's bestselling 2008 novel. In both instances, Serena's sanity is called into question when tragedy strikes. But, in the film, she comes off weaker - her actions and agency lost in her desperation to be the only mother to George's children. George fares little better, as he's betrayed by his friends, his wife and himself in equal measure.

Lawrence and Cooper are the main reasons many people will be watching the film - and they're the main reasons why it works at all. They play what little they're given very well, selling the marriage between George and Serena for everything they're worth. Lawrence looks great with her eternally perfectly-curled hair - highly unrealistic in the backwoods of North Carolina - but, more importantly, makes Serena live and breathe through the disappointing path her character takes in the final act of the film. Cooper provides able support, though he's somewhat hamstrung by a role that remains obstinately opaque despite his best efforts.

When it comes down to it, there's something missing in the grey, grim picture Bier paints of this heated but doomed romance. More intriguing is the thought of what could have been. If the script had been tighter and more faithful to Rash's novel, would the movie and its heroine have come off better? What would the final product be like if original director Darren Aronofsky and star Angelina Jolie had stayed with the project? Alas, we will never know. Instead, we'll have to content ourselves with a film that contains all the right ingredients for a hit, but doesn't manage to cook up something truly special.
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What were they thinking? I mean, everybody. SPOILERS!
mardermj28 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The actor's portrayal is fairly decent, Lawrence brings it, though Brad just wings it, but this isn't the story you yell up to your 93 year old Mom "Say Mom!!do you remember Brad and Jenn from Silver Linings? WOW!! Let's go watch them again but THIS TIME--they rape the environment, abuse and kill workers, abuse and finally kill "each other", one by proxy via panther (Selena's animal counterpart), the other as a result of suicide --- It's a real laugh riot!!!". Nope. Wrong flick. Sorry Ma.

This is not a movie for the robots and graphic comic crowd, which is why the reviews, every one here so far, lean for the most part, towards literacy, whether intrigued or disappointed. But that doesn't mean the film couldn't have been written better for those with artistic sensibilities. And edited with something other than Serena's borrowed hatchet. If scenes were left on the cutting room floor because of airplane noise, there are sound editors that can fix a lot of that. Where the (*&)(& were they?

And as Lawrence reviewed and thought this film worth making, she was overtaken in her enthusiasm by rewrites leaving out some key points that should have overshadowed the lush photography, and treacly but sometimes fetching musical score she never got to hear till post production. She got ripped off by further and further rewrites that watered down the effects of her character's eventual madness.

Kyle's original treatment had Selena murdering Pemberton for daring to support his bastard child. And the original screenplay has Serena dying at 70 at the hand of Pemberton's bastard son--in the jungle--where she has lived alone for forty years, "imprisoned" as a voluntary exile, longing for the man she murdered.

If you were a film school instructor, and you brought this version of the film to show to class, the teach would say something positive like "I'm glad you tried this."

It reminds me of just the kind of films that got screenwriters blackballed for being Commies in the late forties and fifties, it's "anti-capitalism" in the forties and fifties tradition that anything against business labeled you red. And what is Pemberton's fatal flaw besides raping the environment?--he was balling his help and producing bastards kind of speaks for itself.

And Lawrence's post partum insanity, the frustration behind her failed expectations, IS motivation to turn into a nut-case, it is the SECOND TIME with the loss of her child, that she has lost relatives, first her siblings in a fire calling out for her help, then her child, whose fragility she didn't "listen" for. That is motivation for madness that many missed and the reason she "joins them" so graphically, finally, in the film's final moments. Now all you have to add is the discovery of Pemberton's support, all along, of his bastard kid, and the motivation for insane jealousy and retaliation is underscored.

The only thing missing was, if Serena was such a strong character, I would have preferred she chase down the mother of Pemberton's child and fight her with the same level of strength she showed doing "man's work" in the lumber camp. It's a cheap shot to send a henchman immediately, even though she tags along.

I'd rather a fight ensues in which Serena leaves Pemberton's mistress strangled, left for dead, only to revive. THEN Serena, discovering she's still alive, is now justified in sending a more skillful killer. As it is, it is Pemberton that wrings Serena's neck maddened by her attempt to annihilate his son and his former mistress.

Hey if doing rewrites, I have a right to give it a shot too.

So if the film is strictly 1940's noir, prepare yourself by reviewing films like "The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers" (1946) before you watch this film. It helps.

I'm surprised nobody thought to film this movie in black and white. It becomes a different movie. Not better, but more understandable in context. No wonder Lawrence is compared to Barbara Stanwyck, who died the year she was born. There's a plot for you, reincarnation. But Lawrence's A game is much higher imho. She's got an Oscar to prove it.

Some sex scenes with Lawrence in the classic black widow position came through loud and clear, but really with just a bit of imagination I actually know what sex looks like. In one of the scenes however, and I'll leave it to you to figure which one, if Pemberton is actually correctly "aligned", somebody is anatomically impossibly configured. i only mention it because, it takes you out of the movie. That's a no no. That's about as rated G as I can get on that one, 'nuff said.

BUT--can anyone tell me why the other 5 scenes propel the story, besides pillow talk without the talk? If you're saying the love changes when the sex stops, is that a necessary clue to the plot, given all the rest?

So. Do you think this movie is going to go on to make back its money on DVD and on demand sales? Possible, but unless you're a Lawrence fan trying to complete a collection, what part of "don't think so" is not understood, however worth one viewing.

And the film itself?


"I'm glad you tried this."
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Saw Serena yesterday at the LLF
layladenison18 October 2014
I went to see this film yesterday and I liked certain aspects of it. Jennifer was brilliant in the role of Serena. The cinematography was beautiful. The score was very repetitive though! And it appeared that the film itself had been hacked to pieces in the editing process, which was probably due to the "plane noise"! This film is by no means, a disaster, but it could have been a lot worse! I am going to go and see it once more though...just for the hell of it! It is such a shame about this film, it had the potential to be s lot better than it was! The script was a bit lacklustre for the most-part, but Jennifer and Bradley managed to piece something together that was watchable!
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