George and Serena Pemberton (Academy Award® nominee Bradley Cooper and Academy Award® winner Jennifer Lawrence), love-struck newlyweds, begin to build a timber empire. Serena soon proves herself to be equal to any man: overseeing loggers, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving a man’s life in the wilderness. With power and influence now in their hands, the Pembertons refuse to let anyone stand in the way of their inflated love and ambitions. However, once Serena discovers George’s hidden past and faces an unchangeable fate of her own, the Pembertons’ passionate marriage begins to unravel.
Serena is the store of George and Serena Pemberton – newlyweds and very successful lumber barons. Well, George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is the lumber baron and Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) is his new wife. George comes from wealth and rules his business with iron fist letting no one stand between him and his acquisitions. Serena comes from despair. She has no family but can wield an ax just like any man out there and she does. She sees herself of equal footing to any man and this puts a smile or George’s face.
Things seem to go well for the Pembertons until the many their rosy lifestyle starts to take toll on their relationship. George begins to take on more business ventures and she begins to feel like second fiddle. She would navigate around that by using the many folks around them as pawns. She has the influence and the toughness and everyone has witnessed it – her credibility is secured. When she starts to think that George may be hiding things from she escalates by digging deeper into his life.
Likewise, you don’t get to be as successful as George without having a few secrets of your own that involve bribery, etc., Pretty soon things start to fall apart and the Pembertons will have both bitten off more than they could possible ever chew. First off – I don’t even remember Serena hitting theaters here, so I will assume that this is a DTV release. The film is all style but little substance. In fact, the film is quite choppy. I remember watching the trailer and thinking that it looked pretty good. It had a much more coherent storyline than the final film did.
The film had a lot of buzz going in due to it being the first film both lead actors would star in after their Silver Linings Playbook film feature. It was directed by Danish director Susanne Bier (Things We Lost In The Fire) and took 18 months to film due to scheduling conflicts. The film does not suffer from any negative side effects of those scheduling conflicts but the script is very thin when it comes to characterizing our two leads. They’re not really good people, so we don’t really have anyone to root for. The duality of Lawrence’s role is telegraphed in a very clumsy matter and the foreshadowing of what’s to come for George is extremely pedestrian.
The good news is that the film, set in the 1920s, is a lush production that looks like an oil painting come to life. It may not have that much substance to it but our leads look good and their world does too. Serena is all style and clumsy substance.
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Clarity/Detail: The Eastern European landscape substituting for the North Carolina wilderness really shines. Contrast and sharpness levels are more than adequate and no postproduction tweaking was used from what I could tell.
Depth: Magnolia always creates some of the best Blu-rays on the market and Serena is no different. You can eat it with a spoon.
Black Levels: Crush was never a problem – everything remains deep and inky.
Color Reproduction: The color palette is very inviting. We get warm hues and the forests and landscape really “pop” out in a bold fashion.
Flesh Tones: Flesh tones appear nice and natural and our primary characters have a certain warm glow to them.
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: EnglishSDH, Spanish
Dynamics: One would not expect as soundtrack to be as dynamic as the one presented in Serena. On the surface the film may play as a period melodrama, and it is, but the world lived in Serena has a pretty demo-worthy lossless surround sound track that delivers on all fronts. I’m not too surprised since Magnolia delivers the goods on a regular basis when it comes to the Blu-ray format.
Low Frequency Extension: There are several instances where the LFE bass comes through with very good clarity. We have trains, carriages, horses, wildlife, violence, etc., that get a nice lift to them via the subwoofer channel.
Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels are clear and really add more depth to the overall presentation of the film. The rear channels are not as passive as one would think.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crystal clear.
Serena on Blu-ray has a few interesting special features that include deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, director and screenwriter interviews, production design overviews, etc. It’s rather odd that you don’t get a sense of the problems that developed during the shoot, because everyone seems to be on good terms with everyone. I guess it got real once filming wrapped up. The supplemental materials included here are also presented in high definition.
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- The Making Of Serena: The Story, Direction & Characters (HD) – This featurette shines the spotlight on the actors and filmmakers during the making of the film.
- Exploring The Production Design & Time Period (HD) – I’ll let you in on a little secret. Serena was filmed in Prague and Denmark. This featurette tells you about the logistics involved.
- Following The Screenwriting: Comparing The Film & The Novel (HD) – Screenwriter Christopher Kyle talks about adapting the screenplay from Ron Rash’s novel.
- Breaking Down The Set: Kingsport Tanners, Train Station & Main Street (HD) – This is a featurette focusing on the actual sets.
Serena is a severe misfire but as has been the case our primary actors have escaped the aftermath relatively unscathed. The Blu-ray, however, is another story. The video and audio quality is like a painting come to life and the extras are just fine considering what a troubled production it was to get the film made and released but it’s too bad the final film isn’t really any good.
Serena is released on Blu-ray & DVD June 9!