Can Jennifer Lawrence’s New Film Overcome Bad Reviews?
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are together again in the newly released trailer for Serena. The Depression-era drama has endured quite a rocky path to the big screen despite featuring two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Now, viewers are finally getting an extended look at the long-delayed film.
Based on Ron Rash’s novel of the same name, Serena takes place in late 1920s North Carolina and follows newlyweds George (Cooper) and Serena Pemberton (Lawrence) as they attempt to build a timber empire. The two are madly in love, but the passion takes a wrong turn after the infertile Serena discovers George has been keeping secrets about the business and his own personal life. Fueled by her overwhelming desire to save their marriage, Serena eventually decides to take matters in her own hands and goes to extreme lengths in an effort to protect her husband.
Directed by Susanne Bier, the film marks the third collaboration between Cooper and Lawrence following Silver Livings Playbook and American Hustle. Both of the latter films earned multiple Oscar nominations and earned Lawrence a Best Actress win. But Serena hasn’t been faring as well as its predecessors. The movie was actually shot two-and-a-half years ago, before both Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, but has had a much more difficult journey getting to theaters.
The film didn’t arrive to completion until 2013, and even then, it didn’t have a distributor. It was rejected by multiple buyers at three separate screenings featuring different cuts of the film before finally getting picked up by Magnolia Pictures in September.
The movie initially seemed to have all the makings of an Oscar contender, complete with a critically acclaimed cast and an Academy Award-winning director. But early reviews have suggested otherwise. According to The Hollywood Reporter, potential buyers described the film as overly edited and nonsensical after screenings, and the publication called the actors’ performances “uneven.” The movie earned equally harsh reviews at subsequent film festivals earlier this month. After enduring such a troublesome journey to the big screen, the flick also failed to receive an Oscar-qualifying run this year, with a release date instead set for the first quarter of 2015.
The trailer does a good job at hiding all the problems the film has endured so far, depicting a dark, twisted tale full of romance and intrigue. Lawrence and Cooper make as appealing a team as ever, starting out as a picture-perfect, glamorous couple of the period before descending into chaos. Whether their formidable star power is enough to make moviegoers forget the lack of positive buzz surrounding the film remains to be seen. Lawrence, arguably the most in-demand star in the industry right now, is always a big box office draw and has seemingly yet to make a bad choice career-wise. Cooper has been on a winning streak with his choice of roles in the last several years, as well. Together, the two are irresistible on screen — or at least, they have been so far.
It looks like they weren’t able to create the same magic in Serena as in their other films. In addition to earning a negative critical response, the movie has also failed to become a hit overseas. Per The Guardian, the film bombed in its U.K. debut this week, bringing in only about $153,310 across 185 screens. Now, the question remains: Can the promise of Lawrence and Cooper back on screen help the long-awaited film fare better stateside, or will the film live up to its poor reviews? American moviegoers will have soon have the chance to judge for themselves. Serena is scheduled to hit on-demand services February 26 and will be released theatrically on March 27.