A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Serena is a a Depression-era drama that starts as a love story -- Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star as a timber baron and his bride -- but eventually becomes a bleak tale of tragic obsession. There are several love scenes that feature stars in the throes of passion (though no graphic nudity), some drinking, and several characters who smoke (accurate for the era). There are also a few brutally violent moments (a man choking a woman nearly to death, a point-blank shooting, a bloody fight with a razor blade, a man being crushed by a log, etc.) and mature themes, including jealousy, corruption, and illegitimate children.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper), a Depression-era logging baron, is a dedicated bachelor until he's smitten by SERENA (Jennifer Lawrence), whom he quickly woos and weds and takes back to his lumber camp in the Carolina woods. The two are devoted to each other, willing to do anything to protect their marriage. So when George is betrayed by a business associate and faces potential ruin, Serena urges him to take matters into his own hands.
Is it any good?
Serena (based on the novel by Ron Rash) has a strong cast, but there's no spark, and the film is uninspired. Lawrence and Cooper are award-winning actors who've previously paired for two acclaimed blockbusters, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, so it's amazing -- or, more accurately, disheartening -- that they're so lackluster in this period drama.
Nothing seems to fit, and plot pieces don't gel. It's unclear, for instance, whether George and Serena's devotion is a sign of tender compassion or obsessive derangement. The dialogue is especially stiff, full of groan-worthy stinkers. ("The prey believes if it keeps still it will not be noticed," a wizened hunting guide explains, in overly ponderous tones.) Another admittedly smaller quibble: The sets and wardrobe look unusually clean for a working lumber camp. The conflict in the film is easy to spot, and Serena's excessively severe solutions to the couple's problems just don't feel quite right. Nothing here feels quite right.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Serena. What role does it play? Do you think it's all necessary to tell the story? Does it have more or less impact than violence in an action/thriller movie? Why?
How does the movie portray the Pembertons' marriage? Does it seem like a healthy relationship? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding relationships.
- In theaters: March 27, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: June 9, 2015
- Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans
- Director: Susanne Bier
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some violence and sexuality
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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