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Based on the talent involved, Serena seems destined for greatness…unfortunately it falls hard like a tree axed to the ground. It thudded onto VOD and various downloading outlets, but has its official theater release date March 27.

While Serena isn’t a complete disaster, it is a letdown. Consistently putting out quality work, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper currently burn most brightly in the Hollywood heavens. Both actors have accomplished a career rarity: blockbuster popularity from The Hunger Games and The Hangover franchises respectively, along with the Oscar-nominated prestige from their previous pairings in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook (with Lawrence getting the gold).

Adding to the mystery of what went wrong is the involvement of esteemed director Susanne Bier (Brothers, Things We Lost in the Fire), and a story adapted from Ron Rash’s bestselling book of the same title (screenplay by Christopher Kyle). It potentially could have become something akin to Gone With The Wind — a showcase for Lawrence as the fierce and slightly crazy Serena, who takes on the Depression’s hardships in the South much like Scarlett O’Hara’s plights during the Reconstruction Era. Instead, Serena plays more like a melodramatic network television movie of the week (and not in a good way).

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Cooper plays George Pemberton, a timber baron in the North Carolina backwoods right after the 1929 stock market crash. George is already facing some problems with the business, dealing with costly job accidents and the threat of a national park shutting them down. On a visit to Colorado, he sees the beautiful Serena, elegantly riding a horse (in slow motion of course). George’s sister warns she is “wounded,” from a tragic past, but that she is also “mad for trees.” With her family also being in the lumber biz, George is definitely intrigued.

One figures that the two would share some sort of important exchange of dialogue that establishes their romance. Nope — George approaches her for the first time after the horse sighting – with a proposal. They have a laugh and gallop away. In the next 60 seconds, they are getting married, honeymooning, and arriving back to the logging camp.

Serena brings more than just her lumber heiress money — both she and George are intent on her being an active partner (much to the dismay of George’s associate, Buchanan (David Dencik), who as Serena puts it, likes George a little too much). Serena asserts, “I can assure you, Mr. Buchanan, I didn’t come to the Carolinas to do needlepoint.” At first, she delivers, showing that she can make business decisions, survive the harsh lumber camp conditions, and wield an ax as good (or better) than any man.

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Together George and Serena become a ruthless power couple. Sadly, they are a far cry from House of Card’s Frank and Claire Underwood. Serena’s biggest problem is that it lacks the fire and urgency needed to propel it. There is no delicious conniving or passion in the characters’ desire for power or for each other.

Romance fans may have at least been appeased if the film was more steeped in the couple’s supposed mad love. Even the sex scenes are random and oddly placed throughout the film. The lack of spark is criminal since the pair established incredible chemistry in Silver Linings Playbook. Here it falls flat, perhaps because George and Serena are unlikeable – or worse, uninteresting. The range and charm previously seen from both actors are inexplicably stripped, resulting in tedious interactions between the two.

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Tensions arise in the form of secrets, shady dealings, tragedies, and George’s bastard son. Despite the continuous trials and tribulations, none of the drama is all that compelling. Toby Jones plays the town sheriff who is suspicious of George and hopes for the government’s national park to prevail. Rhys Ifans (who does a good job disappearing in the role) is the mystical Galloway, a hunting guide helping George track an elusive panther in a boring subplot.

In general, the film lacks a sense of atmosphere (where’s the folksy mountain music?). It is unsuccessful at the attempted genres: it’s not romantic enough, nor riveting as a Southern Gothic tale or psychological thriller. It also doesn’t fully commit to Serena being a sympathetic character or a corrupted femme fatale. All of these things hurt the conclusion.

It is a handsome looking film; the misty woods and lantern-lit cabin interiors are gorgeous. Lawrence is stunning in the period fashions, and she evokes a Myrna Loy or Barbara Stanwyck-type of glamour.

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At one point, Angelina Jolie and Darren Aronofsky were attached to the project, and leads to wondering what could have been. Then again, with this movie having so many things going for it in the first place, Serena will probably become the film epitome of many rights equaling a wrong. Not to lose hope though — audiences who love the actors may still get to jump for Joy when David O. Russell’s film comes out later this year with Lawrence and Cooper’s fourth film collaboration.