So you think Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are invincible onscreen? Ha! Serena is damning evidence to the contrary. Lawrence shot this folly between two David O. Russell films, her Oscar-crowned Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, both with Cooper. They will survive. Audiences forced to endure the 109 coma-inducing minutes of Serena should bring an e-book or a soft pillow.
What led the actors astray? Ron Rash’s 2008 novel won raves. And director Susanne Bier guided the Danish film In a Better World to a foreign-language Oscar in 2011. Maybe the script, by Christopher Kyle, would play better in Danish, since Lawrence and Cooper nearly choke on their dialogue.
He plays George Pemberton, a Depression-era logging tycoon who brings his bride, Serena (Lawrence), home to North Carolina to watch him make his fortune. Serena doesn’t watch. She’s a doer. Rachel (Ana Ularu), the townie who spewed out George’s bastard kid, is screwed, especially when Serena miscarries. Serena’s descent into madness and murder sparks a storm of overacting that makes the Macbeths look like introverts and reduces this misbegotten lumber-world tragedy to splinters. Left for dead since 2012, Serena would better serve its stars by burial, not resurrection.