With Jenkintown heartthrob Bradley Cooper riding high these last few months on the success of American Sniper, it's hard to imagine any of his films doing poorly. But then along came Serena, the Jennifer Lawrence co-starring flick that's officially skipped theaters and gone straight to Video On Demand.
Director Susanne Bier helmed the reportedly embattled film, which tells the story of a Depression-era timber industry fat cat (Cooper) and the strained relationship he shares with his strong-willed wife, Serena (Lawrence). The film began in 2012 as an adaptation of Ron Rash's 2008 novel of the same name.
At the time, Cooper and Lawrence were riding similarly high on the success of Silver Linings Playbook — a film that director Bier felt immense pressure to match. Consequently, she reportedly spent 18 months cutting Cooper's and Lawrence's work together, only to have it bomb fantastically at the 2014 London Film Festival. As a result, Bier couldn't find a buyer in the U.S. to distribute Serena.
Eventually, Magnolia Pictures picked the film up, and Serena quietly made its way to VOD services everywhere on Feb. 26. Which, of course, is interesting, considering that Cooper and Lawrence have starred together in films multiple times, and many of those movies are considered wildly successful. To push a film starring the pair to VOD with little to no fanfare is, in a word, unusual, and it's hard to imagine the same happening for, say, American Hustle.
Serena, however, is a different story by comparison. And by most accounts, it simply just doesn't make sense. Via Consequence of Sound:
One potential buyer backed away because the film simply "made no sense." In fact, many are pointing to Bier's absence of feeling for the setting, pacing, or tone of the story as one of the reasons it works so miserably unwell.
It's an incompetent movie. Unlike more famous movie disasters, it plays out not like the product of one unchecked monstrous ego, but of a thousand tiny decisions gone wrong. The editing is incompetent. The pacing is incompetent. The scenes don't logically flow from one to the next. The soundtrack sounds like it was generated by a computer-soundtrack algorithm set to 'mournful fiddle.'"
Interestingly, though, Cooper and Lawrence's performances don't seem to be the issue here — but rather the director's vision of the film. Which is good news.
Sadly, though, if the Sony leaks from late last year are to be believed, Serena isn't Cooper last messy upcoming film. Aloha, directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Cooper, is finally set for a May 29 release after its production first began in 2008. In an e-mail exchange, Sony execs called that film's script "ridiculous."
Despite its straight-to-VOD move, Serena will still see a limited theater run beginning March 27. It is currently available on iTunes and Google Play for $10.