Movie Review: ‘SERENA’ Takes An Acclaimed Novel And Turns It Into a Disconnected Period Drama


Preston Barta // Editor

SERENA | 109 min | Rated R
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Sean Harris and Ana Ularu

SERENA was near the top of many lists of books to read before they’re movies, and for this one, it’s for good reason. What has distinguished SERENA from other novels of the romance genre is the nuanced way in which it weaves in sociological commentary. With the film, however, Ron Rash’s acclaimed novel gets unfair treatment and ventures into melodramatic nonsense.

So just when you thought the pairing of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence couldn’t get any better (especially after generating sparks in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK), they let you down by uncomfortably walking around in a story about a newlywed couple set on building a timber empire in the North Carolina woodlands.

SERENA is quite simply a flat period romance that possesses very little chemistry and misfires on all cylinders. After watching it (with its incredible, Academy Award-winning talent behind and in front of the camera), you can’t help but feel that somewhere in what you saw there was a decent movie that got lost on the cutting room floor.

SERENA opens in limited release.
Dallas: Magnolia Cinema

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.