'Serena': The movie adaptation of the Ron Rash novel gets a negative reception from critics

'Serena' stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper and was released in Britain this fall but is only now coming to the US.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Bradley Cooper (l.) and Jennifer Lawrence (r., appearing with Cooper at an event for the movie 'Silver Linings Playbook') star in 'Serena.'

A movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper that’s an adaptation of a Ron Rash novel was slow to arrive in the US and is now receiving some rather negative reviews. 

“Serena,” which is based on Rash’s 2008 novel of the same name, follows married couple George (Cooper) and Serena (Lawrence), who found a timber business in North Carolina. However, Serena soon discovers that George has a secret and the two establish a harsh rule over those in the area.

Cooper and Lawrence have previously co-starred in such films as “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.”

The movie version of “Serena” came out in Britain this fall and is now available on video on demand. It’s coming to US theaters on March 27. 

However, the film has not received positive reviews. Variety writer Guy Lodge found the movie to have “courageous performances” but found that it has “neither a narrative impetus nor a perceptible objective…. [T]he film [has a] silly, thriller-ized denouement…. [I]ts consistent preoccupation with basest human behavior obscur[es] any rooting interest in the events onscreen…. [Lawrence’s is] a performance of agile, angular daring… The star also makes good on her proven chemistry with Cooper, who acquits himself with stoic intelligence and a variable regional accent in an inscrutable role.”

New York Magazine critic Charlie Lyne called the movie “wholly unremarkable … [a] middling period drama.”

“Lawrence is as reliably engaged as ever, finding a convincing emotional path through even the shallowest of lines,” Lyne wrote. “Cooper, likewise, is un-showy but competent…. This is a film full of unremarkable compromises – the kind that result in a bland film rather than a bad one…. Nothing in the film is worthy of either admiration or outrage.” 

Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter writer Todd McCarthy found it to be “pleasantly compelling if ploddingly old-fashioned” at the beginning. It was the rest of the film with which he had a problem. 

“'Serena' only has one key flaw: it is difficult to believe a single word of it, still less to care about these relentlessly selfish and short-sighted characters,” McCarthy wrote. “The supposedly volcanic passion between Serena and George feels brittle and forced, despite the previous easy screen chemistry between Lawrence and Cooper. And there is a fatal lack of humor in the entire story…. [B]oth [Lawrence and Cooper] give performances with more depth and texture than these star-crossed lovers deserve. More blame lies with Christopher Kyle's script, a string of jarring cliches and clunky attempts at subtext.”

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