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Serena - Film Review

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by Haydn Radford (subscribe)
Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events.
Published November 30th 2014
Please note, there are spoilers in this review.

Promoted as the latest movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, Serena was actually filmed between Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Both films have made these two Hollywood's hottest movie couple. While Oscar winning Danish Director, Susanne Bier's adaption of Ron Rash's novel features panoramic mountain scenery, roaring twenties costumes, violence and some passionate love scenes, this gloomy and harsh movie has moments where it is shallow and superficial. The continual ambience of gloom and doom go to such extremes, that certain melodramatic moments go over-board and become laughable.

Set during the Depression era, in the mountains of North Carolina, Cooper plays George Pemberton, a dashing young timber entrepreneur. His logging business is risky and unsafe, but the dirt-poor local labor force are desperate for work and seize the employment opportunities he offers. Pemberton's business partner, Buchanan (David Denick) struggles to keep the timber business viable by securing a bank loan against Pemberton's speculative investment in forests in Brazil. At the same time, the sherriff (Toby Jones) is determined to save the Appalachian forests for a proposed protected national park.

Lawrence, portrays Serena, a beautiful blonde femme-fatale, who tragically lost her family years ago in a timber farm fire. Pemberton meets and promptly marries Serena, and takes her to North Carolina to help run his business. She reveals her progressive and ambitious business skills as she masters men and horses. Pemberton makes it clear that Buchanan, along with the workers must take orders from Serena. She wins the confidence of the Appalachian loggers when she convinces the company to bring an eagle to catch and kill the rattlesnakes that endanger the loggers. However, her new managerial role does not sit well with Buchanan.

Serena is not only dominating, but she is very possessive of her husband. When it becomes evident that Buchanan does not have her husband's best business interests in mind, she develops a spirit reminiscent of Lady Macbeth, and spurs George to get rid of Buchanan.

George and Serena's loving bond is threatened by the unexpected news that he is the father of a son, with the daughter of a local logger. What follows are scenes of anger, jealousy, complicated sex, marital discord, death, murder and the plotting of more murders. Just to complicate George and Serena's life together even further, there is Galloway (Rhys Ifans) who feels so violently bonded to Serena, who saves his life, he persists on a mission of sheer brutal madness to murder George's illegitimate infant son.

Serena develops into a character who is unsympathetic, which is so removed from her star identity, it is possibly why the film has maintained such a low profile. There are several scenes when Lawrence and Cooper are let down by the direction and a poor unrealistic script.

As much as the movie may collapse into melodramatic and comical absurdity, Lawrence gives a fine performance, along with a talented supporting cast: Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, Sean Harris and Sam Read. Bradley Cooper is disappointing and only occasionally appears authentic.

3 out of 10.
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*Haydn Radford was invited as a guest
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When: Check program for details
Phone: (08) 8232 3434
Where: In cinemas
Cost: Check venue for details.
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