Darren Aronofsky (at one point) had his eye on directing Serena, an adaptation of Ron Rash’s Shakespearean tragedy-style historical novel, with Angelina Jolie in the lead. That’s no longer happening, as the project is instead being adapted for the big screen and helmed by Susanne Bier – a Danish filmmaker whose resume includes broody dramas such as Things We Lost in the Fire and the Foreign Language Oscar-winning In a Better World.
However, the Serena adaptation has still managed to secure two hot Hollywood talents, in the form of The Hangover star Bradley Cooper and Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence (this year’s The Hunger Games) – a duo who, as it were, is fresh off working on director David O. Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook together.
Serena (the novel) takes place in 1929 North Carolina, where newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel, in order to make their fortune in the timber business. Serena proves herself to be not only a highly-competent boss, but also a fearless pioneer who’s capable of handling anything the wilderness can throw her way. However, Serena’s ambition takes a turn for the dangerous, when she learns that she cannot bear children, and (eventually) thereafter sets out to murder George’s illegitimate son – who he fathered while living in the timber camp, prior to Serena’s arrival - all while the pair’s onetime “passionate” union begins to spiral (dangerously) downward.
Vulture has the scoop on Cooper and Lawrence teaming up for Serena, which will see Lawrence back to working on indie turf (a la Winter’s Bone, The Beaver, Like Crazy) after her recent turns in big-budgeted fare such as The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class.
Similarly, Serena will be just the latest gloomy character-oriented drama to feature Cooper in some capacity – following on the heels of this year’s Sundance breakout flick, The Words, and Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, which is due to hit theaters later in 2012.
That is to say: Cooper and Lawrence really are more than just pretty faces that pop up in commercial Hollywood productions. This will also be the case with Silver Linings Playbook, in which the two also play a dysfunctional couple – though, in Russell’s film, they’ll be portraying a comical pair of oddballs (as opposed to the back-stabbing spouses from Serena).
Cooper and Lawrence on the 'Silver Linings Playbook' set
The unscrupulous George and conniving Serena both sound like roles that Cooper and Lawrence are well fit for handling, respectively – with the latter character (who almost sounds like a female version of Daniel Plainview from There Will be Blood) being the really “juicy” part that should allow Lawrence to truly flex her complex acting muscles.
Similarly, having a 21-year-old actress handle the titular role could result in a more interesting portrayal of a woman denied the opportunity to become a mother – as opposed to having a more matured starlet (like the 36-year-old Jolie) take on the part. So, again, Lawrence is an intriguing choice, if only for that reason.
Bier, as mentioned before, is know for crafting melancholic tales about damaged people – so, her working on Serena sounds promising enough. Aronofsky’s name might’ve helped attract more attention, but it is certainly possible that Bier will ultimately prove to be the better fit for bringing this troubling tale to cinematic life.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.