It’s 1929, and George Pemberton (played by Bradley Cooper) is ambitious, but he’s a risk taker in business – he’ll do anything for money. He sets his sights on making a fortune and invests in plantations and saw-milling. He invests his mounting wealth in a venture in South America. His plan is firmly on track until the day his world turns upside down … he’s in Boston when he meets Serena (by Jennifer Lawrence). She is like no other woman he’s ever seen – beautiful, charming, impeccably stylish and aptly named … she is truly serene. They are instantly attracted, so the pair quickly marry and head back to his plantation in the mountains of North Carolina. Serena has sawmilling in her blood, her father ran his own lumber company and she knows how things are done – they both dream of building a logging empire. But they both have history too – George is no sooner back in town than he discovers he’s fathered a son with another woman in town. Although he never says so, Serena can sense it and it’s a growing irritation for her. She puts it aside and follows her ambition, quickly becoming a powerful leader of the logging crews – female notwithstanding, she’s good and the men come to respect her. Try as they might, the couple can’t seem to have their own child and this is a growing problem between them. It turns their blissful insular world into a crazy, unpredictable nightmare. Can they get things back together, or will it run totally off the rails …..?
This movie starts very strongly. As George Pemberton, Bradley Cooper is well cast – he’s moody, intense and deliberate in his movements and demeanour. He does this well. As Serena, Jennifer Lawrence is like I have never seen her before. She’s totally luminous – she shines out of every scene and she is styled marvellously. Even though her hair and clothes are totally misplaced in the timber settlement, this doesn’t seem wrong as her character is just to enigmatic. However, as the movie progresses her strong character slowly dishevels into almost a circus freak, which is disappointing. However, there are several strong other roles in this that are worth seeing – Rhys Iffans is marvellous as the brooding and frightening Galloway. Also, Toby Jones makes a great Sheriff McDowell. The movie is fine to pass the time – but it doesn’t maintain its intensity and momentum to the end unfortunately.
Made in 2014. Directed by Susanne Bier.