Awards Profile: Serena


Written By: Christopher Kyle
Directed By: Susanne Bier
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, Sean Harris, Blake Ritson, Kim Bodnia, Sam Reid, David Dencik, Ana Ularu, Ned Dennehy, Mark O’Neal
Synopsis: In Depression-era North Carolina, the future of George Pemberton’s timber empire becomes complicated when it is learned that his wife, Serena, cannot bear children.

Why It Could Succeed: Serena is based on a great book, one some would even say that it’s the best book of the 21st Century. There is a lot of baity stuff in the book (its a period piece with modern trappings, Shakespearean and a strong female lead) and if a majority of it transfers to the screen, the Academy could take notice. Since 2000, 8 Best Picture winners have been based on Adapted Screenplays, so filming a well regraded text certainly can’t hurt.

The book is also something that can cross the gender gap, something few period pieces manage to do. Serena is also incredibly lyrical, drawing a lot on the scenery and the old world-ness of the era, and given Susanne Bier is directing, we could be treated to wonderful visuals.

This movie also stars two incredibly well liked actors, who were just in a big Oscar contender. Jennifer Lawrence, coming off that Oscar win, is in the actress sweet spot for awards love and Bradley Cooper has begun his ascent to movie stardom. They’re also working together in the new David O. Russell movie, meaning this could be the start of a long series of films starring the two. This will be the first time each actor tries their hand at period acting so many people will be wanting to see them take on a different acting challenge. The cast is rounded out by some great supporting actors, including Rhys Ifans who could find himself in contention give his characters’ shifting loyalty and menace.

Why It Could Fail: There are a lot of expectations surrounding this film and that can hurt you sometimes come Oscar season. This movie has had a troubled production history, will that hang over the film? There have been many instances of casting changes but will the specter of the film possibly starring Angelina Jolie and being directed by Darren Aronofksy make this feel less than?

Also, being an uber fan of the book, I am less than enthused about the casting of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Given the characters ages and makeup, they feel so miscast for this. When I think mountain man/timber baron and strong Lady MacBeth type, I could give you 100 couples before I got to these two. Neither actor has been in a period piece of an era later than 1970, so will they be able to acquit themselves to the era the book takes place in? Or will be thinking about why Pat and Tiffany are dressed in weird clothes?

There is a more substantial reason why this film could fail as well. The script is being written by Christopher Kyle, whose last script was for Oliver Stone’s Alexander. That sound you just heard was crickets, blank stares and lowered expectations for the film. It will be a challenge to corral the book’s competing narratives and lyrical stylings into the film for him and Susanne and if they don’t strike a good tone it could easily veer into boring territory.

Oscar Potential
Actor (Bradley Cooper)
Actress (Jennifer Lawrence)
Supporting Actor (Rhys Ifans)
Adapted Screenplay
Production Design
Costume Design
Makeup & Hairstyling
Original Score
Sound Mixing