Serena - Blu-ray Review

'a new low for adaptations. Even more galling: it's not even a very good standalone film.'

Adaptations feel like a juicy topic at the moment. The Hobbit series of films, I will maintain, are OK as movies, but terrible as adaptations. For those who have read Ron Rash's novel Serena, however, Susanne Bier's apparently studio-butchered film of the same name is a new low for adaptations. Even more galling: it's not even a very good standalone film.

In Bier's defence, she claims that the studio altered the film to make it more mainstream after stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper hit true A-list status. Completed in 2012 but held back into late 2014, that decision is a disaster.

For a start, Rash's book is a complex tale about two people who do not realise they are their own narrative's villains. Serena (Lawrence) is a hateful, violent charmer, who gets to the top ostensibly by marrying George Pemberton (Cooper) but then continues upwards by taking proactive control (overtly or covertly) of everything in their lives.

In Bier's film, Serena becomes almost simpering and certainly sympathetic, whilst at the same time throwing away her agency in manners Rash's character never would. Someone somewhere has entirely missed the point. This should be a darkly satisfying look at someone evil getting their own way. Instead you have no idea come the end how much of the film's goings on you can truly blame Serena for.

Of course, there's certainly an argument that that narrative wouldn't have washed with mainstream audiences, but the problem is that that is all there is to Rash's narrative: two fairly bad people, conspiring to do bad things. Take that away, as Bier's film does and not only do you end up with gaping plot holes, but also an anodyne film that destroys its main characters power and its story with it.

In a vacant rush, the film omits things, forgets others, tragically alters the titular character's finale and messes up much more besides. Rhys Ifans is woefully miscast as Galloway, but the film does him no favours either. After an accident he tells Serena that it has 'been prophesied' that he will survive. By whom and when? In the novel Galloway's Mother features prominently and has 'the eye'. Here the character, and any sense around that segment, has gone.

If Bier's story has been mangled by outside intervention, then at least her eye for a shot remains. Much of the film looks fantastic, Lawrence glows when she should and, of all the characters, Pemberton's arc is the most accurate and in tact. This is a mess though, a daring narrative Hollywood's fear has robbed us of.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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