Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 6, 2019)
Despite the fact they share identical titles, 2019’s Serenity enjoys zero connection to 2005’s Serenity or the Firefly TV series on which the latter was based. Instead, the 2019 flick brings us a thriller with Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.
Fishing boat captain Baker Dill (McConaughey) leads tours off idyllic Plymouth Island. However, his laidback existence gets a kick in the pants when his ex-wife Karen re-enters his life.
Karen begs Baker to help her eliminate the threat posed by her violent husband Frank (Jason Clarke). This leads to a mix of complications as Baker attempts to sort out the truth and who he can trust.
If you want evidence that Hollywood no longer benefits much from “A-list” stars, Serenity offers a strong argument. Despite the presence of long-time celebrities McConaughey and Hathaway, the film found a meager audience and it struggled to bring in a mere $8 million.
I can’t blame moviegoers for their refusal to throw hard-earned money at Serenity. An overwrought, meandering stab at film noir, the movie wastes talent.
A whole lot of talent, as it happens. Both Hathaway and McConaughey have earned Oscars, and fellow actors Djimon Housou and Diane Lane also got Academy Award nominations.
As did writer/director Steven Knight. Back in 2004, he earned a screenwriting nod for Dirty Pretty Things.
All this means that wherever one lays blame for the failure of Serenity, it can’t relate to an inherent lack of talent. We get experienced, skilled people involved with the film.
This makes the movie’s problems harder to fathom. If Serenity came from hacks, I’d understand its many flaws, but with so many talented folks behind it, the film’s failure becomes more perplexing.
Ultimately, the biggest problem comes from Knight’s desire to give us something “different”, logic and cohesion be damned. To say much more would reveal spoilers, but suffice it to say that Serenity doesn’t offer the straight modern noir it initially appears to be.
This means a multitude of twists, none of which satisfy. I get the feeling Knight came up with the movie’s curveball ending and built a film around it.
As such, Serenity rarely feels coherent or connected. We get a mix of scenes that exist to push us toward the big reveal toward the end, but they don’t really motivate the action or give us anything compelling.
Because of this, Serenity tends to spin its wheels. Knight telegraphs the various twists in a blunt manner, so the tale doesn’t unspool in the tight, engaging manner it needs.
Serenity does offer many shots of McConaughey’s bare butt, so that might appeal to part of the audience. Viewers who want a tight, involving thriller will encounter disappointment, though.