Directed by Susanne Bier
Set in the 1920’s, George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is a successful timber merchant in North Carolina. With the talk of a National Park threatening his land and livelihood, along with bank loan issues, George’s future looks unstable… that is until he meets Serena Shaw (Jennifer Lawrence). Captivated by her at first sight, the two get married straight away and with Serena’s experience with her own father’s timber company in Colorado, George makes her his business partner as well as his wife. The addition of Serena to the business ruffles a few feathers in the camp, particularly those of George’s right-hand man Buchanan, though Serena proves her worth by improving safety on site, decreasing timber wastage and even saving a man’s life. With the couple expecting their first child together, nothing could be better, but with traitors on site at the logging camp and the constant reminder of his love child at every turn, their relationship begins to sour and true feelings come to light….
From the trailer, it was obvious to see that Serena is not a straightforward romance tale. Like many relationships, there’s bound to be hiccups, except in this one, greed, desire, selfishness and power take over between two people who are infatuated with one another but at the same time destroying one another.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are two of the hottest talents around in Hollywood at the moment, particularly after their performance together in Silver Linings Playbook. I expected the same electric chemistry to be present in Serena, but unfortunately the magic is nowhere to be seen. This isn’t really the fault of the performers though, but more an issue with the script and screenplay. Their blossoming relationship is never developed, instead it happens instantaneously. George first sees Serena showjumping at an event in a scene early on in the movie. After chasing her down on his horse and introducing himself with that old chat-up line, “we should be married”, they do just that. The very next scene they are married. Any believability in this romance is completely destroyed at the very beginning and leaves the subsequent relationship a mere lust. Even the numerous love-making scenes feel awkward, like between two people who don’t really know one another, whilst one other scene involving George pleasuring Serena in a bathtub is gratuitous and unnecessary and very much outstays its welcome. It is the supporting roles which really make an impact, including Sean Harris’ chief labourer Campbell, Toby Jones’ Sheriff McDowell, David Dencik’s bachelor right-hand man Buchanan and, my personal favourite, Rhys Ifans as brooding, psychic overseer Galloway. These supporting performances provide the beef of the plot for the characters of George and Serena to bounce off and without them, the film would be an empty shell.
Whilst there’s plenty to chew on in the film, from backstabbing to deaths, Serena has one vital thing missing – heart. This results in a rather cold and empty movie at times, something which even the stunning woodland location cannot compensate for. The film has its odd share of gripping scenes but just don’t expect too much from it as a whole.