Shaky High Concept;
Campy Acting And Screenplay;
This was quite the interesting experience. From the initial trailers, I was completely sold; Oscar winners dot the acting landscape and the writer/director is the same man who brought us the fantastic Locke a few years ago. But when news of the release date being pushed back to January broke, eyebrows began to raise. After viewing it, I can see why, but I’m not ready to shove it to the side like so many others. Yes, box office results so far have been very disappointing and the critics are largely panning it, but I suspect this will find an audience over time who can really appreciate it.
The script is where a lot of the film’s issues lie. There is a lot of camp, and it’s tough to tell if it is intentional or not. Some of the characters are wooden and lack dimension, and sometimes even come off a bit cartoonish. An argument can be made that this is all part of the plan, as more layers begin to reveal themselves over the course of the three acts and that rigidity starts to make sense, but it is still off-putting and sometimes you are drawn out of the moments on screen, focusing on that camp factor. I won’t get into plot specifics for a couple different reasons, but suffice it to say this is going to be a divisive picture. But for all its faults, Serenity has a certain magnetism to it, so even when certain things happened that turned me off from what it was trying to do, it continued to draw me in, as I was unable to curb my fascination.
Despite flaws in the script, I was impressed as always by Matthew McConaughey. He does the slow burn into crazy territory well, and has a lot to chew on here to make that transition. Anne Hathaway is good as the femme fatale, as her face easily conveys that she is up to something and her sex appeal can’t lower all the red flags that arise around her. Jason Clarke hams his performance up to match the material he’s given, in stark contrast to what he was doing this time last year in Chappaquiddick, and it’s oddly fun to see him be such a villain. His motives are harder to grasp than those of other characters, but given where the film lands, the reasoning becomes clearer eventually.
I’ve already seen a lot of people claiming this will be on the year-end “Worst of 2019” lists, and while I definitely don’t agree with that, I can see why it has rubbed people the wrong way. I gave myself a day to try and formulate my thoughts on this because there is a lot to process and with a movie like this, I think running straight to the soapbox once the credits roll is too premature. This film definitely has some big ideas about free will, higher powers, escapism and what it truly means to love someone, but the execution is certainly clunky. There are murky waters to wade through to get to the core of Plymouth Island, but if you look hard enough…there may be some treasure buried under the surface.