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.