ByAllen Strickland, writer at
Allen Strickland

In a year where few films have stepped forward as Oscar frontrunners, a film based on a novel by an author from a tiny town in North Carolina, and released by a studio known for independent films and documentaries, may jump to the front of the pack. Serena, based on the novel of the same name by Ron Rash, stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper and has a good chance to bring serious Oscar buzz when it is released on September 27th of this year. I’m going to break down the film and give you my opinion as to why it has a shot to bring home some serious hardware come awards season.

The Story

A great film needs a great story and Serena definitely has that going for it. The novel upon which the film is based received critical acclaim when it was published in 2009. The novel tells the story of George and Serena Pemberton as they build a timber empire in Western North Carolina. Serena is quickly revealed to be a ruthless character who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. One by one, all who oppose her and her husband meet grisly ends.

After learning that she cannot have children, Serena turns her deadly gaze towards the mother of Pemberton’s illegitimate son. This jump starts a thrilling story as mother and child flee for their lives trying to escape the murderous Serena and her ruthless henchman Galloway. The story then spirals forward to its shocking conclusion. I won’t spoil the ending for you but rest assured that it is a wonderful story and I highly recommend the book. The titular character Serena has been favorably compared to Lady Macbeth and the book to the work of Faulkner and McCarthy. The most promising review of the book may very well come from Pat Conroy who said: “Ron Rash’s new novel Serena catapults him to the front ranks of the best American novelists. This novel will make a wonderful movie, and the brave actress who plays Serena is a shoo-in for an Academy Award nomination”.

Cast and Crew

The production staff for the film has put together an amazing and highly accomplished cast. Jennifer Lawrence plays the titular role of Serena. Lawrence is fresh off her Academy Award for Best Actress which she won for Silver Linings Playbook. This is a major undertaking for Lawrence as it is unlike any role that she has taken on before. However, I believe that she is definitely up for the task. Lawrence has become known for playing strong female roles and this is no exception.

Bradley Cooper plays Serena’s husband, George Pemberton. This is not Cooper’s first film with Lawrence as he also paired up with her in Silver Linings Playbook, for which he also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Rhys Ifans takes on the role of Galloway, Serena’s henchman and the man responsible for carrying out the murders of many of her enemies. Toby Jones will play Sheriff McDowell one of the few characters in the story to stand up to the Pembertons. The rest of the cast is filled out by various unknown actors will be taking on the various supporting characters from the story. This appears to be a very well rounded and respected cast, one that should do an excellent job translating the story to screen. The film is directed by Susanne Bier who won Best Foreign Film for In a Better World at the 83rd Academy Awards. Bier is known for directing films about broken and dysfunctional characters which makes her suited to take on this film.

With a star studded cast, an acclaimed director, and excellent source material, Serena has a ton of potential as a film. While it may not make a lot of money, it has a good shot at bringing home plenty of awards. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing it.


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