Time: 106 Minutes
Matthew McConaughey as Baker Dill
Anne Hathaway as Karen Zariakas
Diane Lane as Constance
Jason Clarke as Frank Zariakas
Djimon Hounsou as Duke
Jeremy Strong as Reid Miller
Director: Steven Knight
Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) is a fishing boat captain who leads tours off of the tranquil enclave of Plymouth Island. His peaceful life is soon shattered when his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) tracks him down. Desperate for help, Karen begs Baker to save her — and their young son — from her abusive husband (Jason Clarke). She wants him to take the brute out for a fishing excursion — then throw him overboard to the sharks. Thrust back into a life that he wanted to forget, Baker now finds himself struggling to choose between right and wrong.
I think I might’ve heard about Serenity a little while ago. The cast consists of Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway but also this would be writer/director Steven Knight’s second film, after his debut with Locke. However, what got me really noticing the movie was the response to it, it wasn’t just badly received, it was labelled a hilarious disaster. Eventually I caved in and decided to watch it, it really wasn’t a good movie but it was fascinatingly bad at points, which at least gave it some entertainment value.
Steven Knight has written a lot with the likes of Eastern Promises and of course his directorial debut Locke, so it’s clear that he has quite a bit of talent at writing. While I hadn’t watched all of his written movies, I thought that The Girl in the Spider’s Web would be his worst work, Serenity proved me wrong however. Much of the movie moves really slow and is about catching fish, so even though the main plot is about Anne Hathaway getting Matthew McConaughey to kill her husband, it’s stretched over a long period of time, and mostly just being him trying to catch a particular fish. There are so many absurd things done over the course of the movie and it just end up being hilarious. Matthew McConaughey is constantly after a fish named Justice, there’s a character who literally refers to himself as “The Rules”, and some things that are meant to be taken seriously are just done in such a silly way (there are even more examples but border into spoiler territory, so I won’t go into depth with those). Some of the dialogue is quite weird and unnatural, “I’m a hooker with no hooks” and “We haven’t caught jack since your wife died” are among some of the odd lines of dialogue that we are blessed with. You’d think that this is at the very least a partial comedy given all the genres it tries to be but it actually plays the whole story very seriously. Being written averagely is one thing. However in terms of movie breaking issues, there’s a big chunk of the movie I can’t talk about because of spoilers, and that’s the twists and the direction of the story. You get hints of the main twist in the first 30 minutes and you can figure it out pretty quickly. Then at the hour mark it just reveals everything to the audience, it’s worse than that, they spell it out for the audience. The concept of the twist isn’t bad itself but it needed to be handled much better than how it was, because the end result was honestly pretty ridiculous and doesn’t work at all. It goes in such a far off direction from what you’re expecting going in, it’s really bonkers. When you look back on many of the events knowing the twist, there are a lot of things that don’t add up and it just makes the movie even more silly. With that twist, it’s like Serenity is trying to have 5 genres all in one movie, and none of them go together at all.
This movie has quite the talented cast, unfortunately the film really didn’t utilise them that well, even if they try their best. Matthew McConaughey’s performance isn’t bad, he puts everything that he could into this movie. Yes, his performance can be pretty over the top at times, and him getting ‘dramatic’ and randomly yelling at some points, you can’t help but find him to be hilarious, honestly though I can’t blame him too much, at least he tried. Anne Hathaway also tries her best in her role, but she too is held back by the writing. Despite working together on Interstellar, you wouldn’t know that McConaughey and Hathaway had even seen each other before filming, and keep in mind that the two characters are like ex-spouses. The chemistry between them is non existent. The rest of the cast don’t really get anything to work with. Jason Clarke plays Hathway’s abusive husband (given no subtlety or humanity whatsoever and is basically a cartoon throughout much of the movie), Diane Lane’s only purpose in the film is to have sex with McConaughey and Djimon Hounsou is just sort of in there in the movie and isn’t that significant in the plot.
Steven Knight’s direction of Locke was simple but effective, even though it largely just took place inside a car in one night. Here he works on a much larger scale, and while his work here isn’t disastrous, it’s got a lot of problems. To be fair to Serenity, it can look really good at some points. However, some of the decisions like the zoom ins and fast paced moments, as well as the occasionally jarring editing really take you out of the whole experience. Even the music was pretty generic and didn’t fit with the movie at all.
Serenity was a really weird misfire of a movie. It really all comes back to the writing, with its weird dialogue, a plot with many ideas that don’t come together, and add upon those ludicrous twists that don’t work at all, it’s a fascinating movie to watch. I can see why it was pushed a couple of times from last year to January of this year. In terms of positives, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway do their best with the material that they have, and the cinematography can be alright at points, but they can’t save this movie from being a mess. While I wouldn’t put it under the so-bad-it’s-good category like so many people have, I’d say that it is strange and unintentionally funny enough that it might be worth a watch.