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'Serena' movie review -- 2.5 stars

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in "Serena." Credit: Magnolia Pictures.

The fact that "Serena" stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps the two hottest actors in Hollywood today, and has effectively gone straight to video on demand with a token theatrical release implies that it must be some sort of epic disaster.

The truth is that it's anything but. The worst thing to be said about the movie from Academy Award-winning Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier is that it's pretty slow and ponderous, and the characters are rather wooden.

But "Serena" has a refined cinematic beauty, with widescreen images capturing the mist rising through the sprawling pines of the Smoky Mountains (actually the Czech Republic), sepia tones and evocative shadowed compositions that offer such a defined sense of place that you can practically smell the crisp, cool mountain air.

If the film is seen at all, it really should be on a big screen. It's a foreign filmmaker's take on classical Americana tropes, with the story concerning logging titan George Pemberton (Cooper), as he marries the headstrong Serena (Lawrence) and struggles to develop and expand his empire amid the economic devastation of the Depression.

The movie unfolds in such hushed, static tones that it never gets under the skin. It keeps you at a pronounced distance because Bier opts for a resolutely minimalist approach, building scene after scene out of characters staring at things in forlorn close-up. But if the worst you can say about a movie is that it's not very involving, that's hardly a disaster.


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