On the Silver Screen – Serena

Oct 26, 2014 | Posted by in Movies

Serena is the story of George (Bradley Cooper) and Serena Pemberton (Jennifer Lawrence), newlyweds who run a timber company in Carolina in the 1920s. Their relationship and the story in general becomes complicated when it’s revealed that Serena cannot bear children.

George is the stereotypical period man’s man who is strong and into manly things like manual labour, hunting, cigars and fine alcohol. He is a man of privilege who has used his family fortune to build his timber business. He meets Serena when visiting his sister and they quickly marry. He is drawn to Serena because of her intelligence, her mysterious nature and of course her incredible beauty. As it turns out she is a deeply troubled woman.

SerenaBradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are really good in their roles. The two actors have excellent chemistry together which should come as no surprise given how often they have worked together in recent years. Cooper’s accent can at times come across as pretty ropey but he does manage to exhibit a wide range of emotions and gives the character of George Pemberton an impressive amount of depth given how thinly written he can sometimes seem.

Jennifer Lawrence is great as always but there’s just not enough to Serena for her to do much with. Lawrence does a great job of injecting the performance with confidence and later menace but the character is very 2 Dimensional which makes it more difficult to feel any sympathy for her. There was clearly an attempt to go for a Lady MacBeth sort of vibe but it falls pretty flat.

The romance between George and Serena becomes much of the focus of the first half of the film and it feels really uneven. I’m not sure whether it was the editing or just the way it was written but something felt pretty unnatural about it. Cooper and Lawrence elevate the material through their obvious chemistry and natural interactions as well as some fairly clever dialogue but it feels disjointed throughout. It also doesn’t feed into the other plot of the timber business and the internal politics surrounding that as naturally as it could have. Gender politics are handled quite well though with all of the men in the film being impressed by Serena’s outspoken nature and the intelligence surrounding her practical ideas that actually benefit everyone when implemented.

Tone and atmosphere makes up the vast majority of this film as much of what the film does depends on the unsettling feeling that the film puts across. The foggy rural setting does a great job of establishing mood and allows for some fantastic looking scenes. There is a massive tonal shift not too far from the end of the film that changes pretty much everything that came before. This shift doesn’t really work and feels really unearned. I could understand what the film was trying to go for in doing so but it falls far short of the mark on several levels.

It’s a shame that ultimately none of this works as the story shows a lot of dramatic promise and the film does start off well. The opening of the film makes it seem like the characters will be compelling and it will be an intense yet honest relationship drama but in the end the characters are too thinly written to pull it off and it all comes across feeling a little too melodramatic.

  • 3.5/10
    Serena - 3.5/10


Serena is a disappointingly uneven film that starts off very well but very quickly loses the way. It starts off as if it’ll be a compelling relationship drama with a subplot involving a business with an undercurrent of corruption but the two sides of the narrative don’t come together very well. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are good as always but the characters they are given are very thinly written. This film had a lot of promise but failed to live up to any of that potential.