Ignore the NYC and LA critics giving Serena bad reviews, particularly those complaining about it’s “lack of humor.” They must prefer vapid comedies over sophisticated, character-driven drama. They certainly don’t understand the gritty, loyal nature of Appalachian culture nor appreciate the rugged, spectacular beauty of its mountainous wilderness. They haven’t even read the book on which the movie was based — Ron Rash’s eerily intriguing, Appalachian noir novel about the Macbeth-like owners of a Depression-era timber empire.
Serena is a brilliant, suspenseful, slow building drama of Shakespearean proportions.
The film reunites David O’Russell darlings Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, who were perfectly cast as the dastardly and passionate Pembertons.
Director Suzanne Bier did a phenomenal job reflecting the moody atmosphere and rustic panoramas so masterfully conjured by Ron Rash’s novel. Prague and the foggy, mountainous Czech Republic countryside were surprisingly worthy stand-ins for Appalachia.
The movie doesn’t quite flesh out the individual characters as well as the book, but that’s typical for a film adaption. The only real misstep was the casting of Toby Jones as the local Sherriff. His failed, somewhat Australian attempt at a Southern accent is unintenionally comedic.
Reading some of the more ridiculously scathing and innaccurate reviews, I was reminded of lines from Muriel Miller Dressler’s poem, “Appalachia”:
“I am Appalachia…
and, stranger, you don’t know me!…
You, who never stood in the bowels of hell,
Never felt a mountain shake and open its jaws
To partake of human sacrifice?
You, who never stood on a high mountain…
You, who never danced to wild sweet notes…
You, who never once carried a coffin
To a family plot high up on a ridge
Because mountain folk know it’s best to lie
Where breezes from the hills whisper, ‘you’re home'”
Following the successful Veronica Mars multi-format release model, Serena is now available On Demand, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and Google Play in advance of its March 27th theatrical release. Please see it in whatever form you can and I hope it eventually makes its way into WV cinemas. This film deserves every bit of attention that was lavished on Birdman and Boyhood. Serena has the substance and unique style so desperately needed in the movie industry.
I loved Ron Rash’s novel Serena, so I’m both excited and a little wary of the upcoming film adaption. I think Jennifer Lawrence was a good choice for the titular character and the new official trailer indicates the movie will stay true to the book’s gritty, rustic Depressiom-era setting…
After a few years of delving into classic literature and non-fiction adventure books (mostly about exploring the Amazon and Mexican caves), I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy some new novels this year. I didn’t post a book list last year, so I’m including one 2011 release I read this year. Please comment with your favorite reads of 2012!
A charming, quaint little story about an elderly Englishman’s spontaneous journey on foot to see an ailing friend and the effect his decision has on himself, his wife and everyone he encounters along the way. It would have been my #1 book of the year if not for the second half veering off into Forrest Gump territory.
Set in 1914, a group of survivors in a tiny lifeboat gradually lose all sense of decency and themselves after nearly a month at sea in the aftermath of a sunken ocean liner. As the narrator reveals upfront she’s on trial for murder, you know this ain’t no Titanic.
A classically written novel about a young Jewish refugee who escapes WWII-era Vienna to work as a maid in an English manor. It’s like a romanticized Downton Abbey.
A melodramatic but sweet WWII-era romance about two military outcasts falling in love through correspondence.
“…a charming, cheery little novel…Austin pays homage to Lewis Carroll by dropping her feisty, somewhat spoiled, bookworm heroine, Alice, in a strange, Depression-era, backwoods Appalachia town called Wonderland Creek…one of those uplifting reads that leaves a smile on your face at the end, though you’ll miss that wonderful little world when it’s over.“
“…a romantic fable in unusual binding. This beautiful, open-spined book folds out like an accordion, so you can choose to read Evelyn’s story then flip over to Brendan’s perspective (or vice versa) as they meet in a bookstore, fall in love, are torn apart and attempt to find their way back to each other.“
An unusual fantasy of a couple who miraculously survive an avalanche while skiing only to find the French village they are staying in completely deserted and eerily silent when they return. A chain of strange events and their inability to escape the village lead the couple to question the very world they live in.
Rash certainly imagines some extraordinary plots. Had his 2009 novel, Serena, been released this year, it would also be on this list. Set in WW1-era Appalachia, The Cove tells of a lonely, outcast girl who falls in love with a mysterious, mute stranger who carries a secret of his own.
Another exquisite, multi-cultural, multi-generational tale by Victoria Hislop, who just may be the finest writer alive. Her stories are always a rich, tightly woven, unparalleled tapestry of language.
“…truly a page turner…Morton deftly takes us back and forth from the blitz of WWII-era London through the 1960’s and into the modern age, weaving a universe of mystery and suspense all along the way…so well designed and executed that, for once, the twist at the end took me completely by surprise.“