Serena is not the train wreck it was rumored to be, but it may be proof that star power no longer counts for much in Hollywood. This weekend, American Sniper officially out-grossed The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 at the box office, making the leads in those movies, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the no. 1 and no. 2 stars of 2014, respectively. By that token, Serena — a dark, Depression-era drama, starring Cooper and Lawrence as a timber baron and his ambitious wife — should be a huge movie. Instead, it was quietly released on VOD, in anticipation of a limited theatrical run beginning March 27. (It’s now available to rent on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.)
At least audiences will finally get a chance to see Serena, which sat on the shelf for over two years before finding a U.S. distributor. Because of that delay, the film was rumored to be a catastrophe, despite its top-notch cast and prestige director Susanne Bier (Oscar winner for the 2010 Danish drama In a Better World). In truth, Serena is not terrible, but it’s certainly odd: a throwback melodrama that never quite comes into focus as it stumbles from one preposterous moment to the next. Here are a few of the film’s most memorable crazy scenes, in GIF form. (Warning: Major spoilers to follow.)
After accompanying her new husband George Pemberton (Cooper) to his timber yard in North Carolina, Serena (Lawrence) notices that a lot of his workers are dying of rattlesnake bites. Naturally, she imports an eagle to kill the snakes. She also insists on training it herself, saying that the men “need to know that it was a woman who tamed this eagle.” (Did she mean “tamed this metaphor?”)
Serena begins to go off the deep end after she has a miscarriage and learns that she won’t be able to give George any children. One day Serena realizes that George has been secretly mooning over a picture of his illegitimate son, conceived with one of his workers before the wedding. Suffice it to say she does not handle this well.
Because Serena is the proactive type, she decides to solve the illegitimate-son problem by hiring a local woodsman to slaughter the baby and his caretakers. Somehow she expects George to feel okay about this, but instead he expresses his disappointment by attempting to strangle her.
Serena survives the strangulation, and George manages to save the baby. However, George has not yet fulfilled his own animal-metaphor story arc, which involves hunting down a rare panther in the Blue Ridge mountains. Finally, at the end of the film, he finds and shoots the elusive cat, which immediately turns around and mauls him to death.
Then Serena sets fire to everything. The end!
This post was updated with additional information.
Watch the trailer below:
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures, StudioCanal