Gina Vaynshteyn
March 16, 2015 11:50 am

You probably heard about the film-adaptation of Serena, because it was crazy-hyped and promoted and included on every single “Book You Should Read Before The Movie Comes Out In Theaters” and “Films We Are Most Excited About” articles on the Internet. And for good reason —it stars Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar-nominated Bradley Cooper, and these two have had amazing chemistry together ever since we saw them in Silver Linings Playbook. The story is based off a best-selling novel and directed by the Oscar-winning director Susanna Bier. So why is Serena going straight to DVD?

Serena, a film about tumultuous and crazy-in-love newly weds who venture into the booming timber business, looked super promising. It’s set in the ’30s. Jennifer’s retro finger waves and outfits are swoon-worthy. Bradley looks like your dream boyfriend if you lived in the ’20s and wanted a boyfriend. The setting is drenched in old-timey, forest-green Americana, and oh yeah —there’s INFIDELITY and MURDER and BETRAYAL involved. All elements that should ensure a box-office hit. But here’s what happened, according to Vulture: It was just not an “interesting or particularly enjoyable movie.” And a lot of mistakes were made in its creation.

First of all, instead of being set in North Carolina, Serena was filmed in the Czech Republic (reportedly for tax incentives), and while I’ve never visited the Czech Republic, I’m guessing it doesn’t really resemble the East/South Coast of the US. It took much longer than projected to complete, and then once it premiered at movie festivals, it received lackluster response after lackluster response. Vulture states that it “bombed in the U.K.,” and was “met with generally tepid reviews everywhere.” A common theme in reviews was that the story lacked a cohesive narrative and “perceptible objective.” So then American distributors passed on it, which was basically its final death sentence. It’s still being released (reportedly March 27th of this year), but you’re more likely to see it at Target than theaters.

Words and phrases that best described the movie include “incompetent,”  “the wrong kind of vintage,” “choppily edited,” and “failed Oscar bait.”  So, just really not great.

I can’t lie and say I’m not bummed out by the fate of this movie. I love Jennifer Lawrence, and while I’m more on the fence about reformed “jerk character trope” Bradley Cooper, I like them together on screen. I had high hopes for the highly-anticipated Serena, a film that seemed to really give Jennifer Lawrence another empowering role as a woman who aggressively does not take any amount of bullshit. A film that dug (no pun intended) into early American history and exposed the country’s struggles in tremendous, important ways.

But if anything, maybe Serena served as a valuable (albeit, costly) lesson in film-making and showed just how much goes into what makes a movie worthy. And what can so easily destroy that movie’s worthiness.

And because like me, you still have a little, tiny, tiny bit of hope for this film, let’s watch the trailer again:

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