Serenity is a difficult film to review. It’s not rare for a films marketing to sell you something completely different from the final product. As a reviewer, I try to keep my head clear of any previous knowledge and enter a film cold. However, the basic understanding of what “Serenity” actually is hinges on a half baked reveal mid-way through the film that changes everything you thought you knew… for worse. I would have to fully explain the plot of “Serenity” in order to get into how batshit absurd and insane this film is, but I just won’t.
Directed by acclaimed writer, Steven Knight, “Serenity” has all the visual flourishes needed for a seemingly sun-baked Neo-Noir. The warm, tropical setting is simply absorbing. Michigan in January is far from sunny, but watching this film, I felt transported to the location of Plymouth Island. I felt the heat gaze upon me, similar to Matthew McConaughey’s world-weary fisherman, Baker Dill *church giggles*.
The cast of “Serenity” is also totally game. Matthew McConaughey is compelling as ever in a role that, admittedly, he could play in his sleep. Anne Hathaway, who shows up reveling in her Femme Fatale ex-wife of McConaughey, adds another layer of charisma. Their scenes together are unquestionably the best in the entire film, even when they’re laden with the worst of what the plot has in store for them.
Yet, the supporting cast gets the shorter end of the stick. Diane Lane is wasted in a thankless role that only calls for her to have sex with McConaughey and spout wisdom for the audience. Djimon Hounsou gets a moment or two to remind you why he was once destined to become a star and poor Jason Clarke. Clarke is saddled with the most cliche, scenery-chewing abusive husband you could think of and feels like he came from a completely different film.
Knight, attempting to make a high-concept Tropical noir filled with sex, betrayal and intrigue, is admirable in his ambitions, but never knows how to pull off such a kookoo bananas story. If I were to tell you what “Serenity” is actually about, you wouldn’t believe me. I really cannot describe how crazily nonsensical “Serenity” becomes in it’s second half. The twist attempts to hold some emotional weight in what the characters are going through, but fails miserably. The ending reeks of misplaced maudlin sentimentality. It’s one of those reveals that is so odd and questionable, you wonder how exactly this film got made, let alone star numerous Oscar-Winners.
I will say this; “Serenity” is ambitious. It holds nothing back and goes for it. It misses the mark completely, but this film swings for the fences so hard, you can’t help but quietly admire it.
Ranking alongside recent star-studded disasters like “The Book of Henry” or “Collateral Beauty”, “Serenity” is another film that has a lot it sets out to accomplish, but ends up accomplishing none of it. It’s a baffling misfire that left me scratching my head hours after seeing it.