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Serenity - Review

Posted by Nick Spake on January 24, 2019 at 11:15 AM

Just last week, numerous critics ripped “Glass” a new one, notably taking issue with its twist ending. While “Glass” was far from a perfect film, it has nothing on the ridiculous twists and turns in “Serenity.” This film is so preposterous, so confused, and so utterly insane that it would make even some of M. Night Shyamalan’s dumbest outings call BS! It plays out like a Lifetime Movie of the Week if the writers of “Lost” took over half-way through, accumulating to a tonally inept mess. What’s especially mystifying is that the project somehow managed to attract mostly Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated performers.

Maybe they were drawn in by writer/director Steven Knight, himself an Oscar nominee. Knight, to his credit, is a talented filmmaker who isn’t afraid to take chances. His ambitions paid off in 2013’s “Locke,” which managed to make a long car ride dramatically compelling. In “Serenity,” however, Knight dives into the deep end and immediately sinks, as if he never even took a single swimming lesson. The creative choices Knight makes here are baffling to the point that “Serenity” is almost worth seeing if you’re a fan of entertainingly bad movies. Unless you’re in the mood for some serious shark jumping, though, you might as well jump ship now.

Those Lincoln car commercials are no longer the lowest point of Matthew McConaughey’s post-McConaissance career. In “Serenity,” he plays Baker Dill, a down on his luck fisherman who needs to prostitute himself to make ends meet. He describes himself “a hooker without a hook,” which is just one of the many horrendous lines this film has to offer. Baker spends most of his days on a boat with friend Duke (Djimon Hounsou), trying to catch a giant fish that always gets away. Captain Ahab has even bigger white whales to fry, however, as his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) arrives on the island. Trapped in an abusive marriage with Jason Clarke’s Frank, Karen asks Baker to take her husband out on his boat and feed him to the sharks. Although Baker is reluctant at first, he starts to come around for the sake of the son he shares with Karen, who spends most of his time on the computer.

Hathaway is a wonderful actress, but her entire performance sounds like a bad impression of a film noir dame. Clarke is cartoonishly over-the-top in his role, practically announcing how sadistically cruel he is every time he enters a room. Then there’s McConaughey, who hasn’t phoned it in this much for a major motion picture since “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.” The film features a number of other players, such as Diane Lane as Baker’s love interest and Garion Dowds as a young man who believes he brings good luck, but they serve no real purpose in the grand scheme of things. You could literally leave their scenes on the editing room floor and nothing would be lost.

The effortless performances and melodramatic setup aside, “Serenity” at least keeps us slightly engaged until a mysterious stranger played by Jeremy Strong explains what’s really going on. About 40 minutes into “Serenity,” you’ll likely start to suspect the big twist. At first, you’ll think to yourself, “there’s no way this movie could possibly be that stupid.” Well, the movie IS that stupid, changing gears faster than somebody with schizophrenia. Not only does the second half in no way match the tone of the first, but it tries to tackle ideas we’ve seen better represented in countless other projects, from “The Matrix,” to “Inception,” to “Black Mirror.”

Say what you will about “Glass,” but at least the twist ending in that film had an ounce of logic to it. The twist in “Serenity” makes absolute no sense and gives no insight into the character it revolves around. If anything, the twist just leaves you asking more questions about this person’s mental state. Watching such lunacy unfold leaves the audience feeling as if they’ve suffered a psychological breakdown. Walking out of the theater, all you can do if shout at the top of your lungs, “Serenity now! Insanity later!”

Grade: 2 out of 5 Stars

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