Film review: Serena – Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper lose themselves in forgettable soap opera
Great Depression-era romance lacks heat and falls flat as it feels too modern to be convincing
Released first in the UK in 2014 and originally set to star Angelina Jolie, Susanne Bier’s awkward adaptation of Ron Rash’s 2008 novel is a film that seems ruinously out of sync with itself. Against the backdrop of America’s Great Depression of the 1920s/1930s, Jennifer Lawrence plays the eponymous orphan, who, we’re told, is “wounded, beautiful and mad about wood”.
Luckily – or perhaps not – she meets and marries Bradley Cooper’s North Carolina timber merchant, inadvertently causing both of their lives to unravel. Lawrence and Cooper have a successful onscreen record together (in David O’Russell’s Oscar-bothering American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook), but there’s something about their performances that feels too modern for this era and their romance lacks heat.
Equally, the talented supporting cast of Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones and Sean Harris have been transplanted from Britain, accents and all, so it’s hard to give credence to them as Deep South woodsmen. The narrative has the choppy quality of a badly bowdlerised book, and the result is not bad so much as boring – and best thought of as a tree, fallen in the forest, that nobody heard.
Serena opens on April 14
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