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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.