“Where there’s smoke there’s fire” can be an annoying idiom in the world of movie journalism (or fan blogging or whatever you want to call it set photo speculation these days), because it can be the broadest excuse for 2+2=5 logic. But in the case of Susanne Bier’s long-delayed film “Serena” starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the writing has been scrawled visibly on the wall for more than a year. When first announced, “Serena”— a Depression-era-set drama about newlyweds running a timber business in North Carolina, which is complicated when the wife cannot bear children — was a film to keep an eye on. But even as the movie moved into post-production, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper became even bigger stars, and it was assumed “Serena” would become an Oscar contender.
Not to be, it seems. Shot in 2012, the film spent months in post-production. While many assumed the movie would show up at various prestige film festivals, Venice, Cannes, etc. “Serena” would appear at none of them (the film makes its worldwide premiere at the London Film Festival next month just ahead of its regular U.K. release). It didn’t take long for industry word to get out that Bier had a turkey on her hands. And when smaller indie company Magnolia quietly bought the picture, rather than one of the larger awards players (Magnolia’s not exactly a company known for Oscar releases), it became clear that “Serena” was going to be an indie art house attraction at best.
“Serena” was shot two and a half years ago at this point, even before “American Hustle,” which was released in 2013. According to a new THR article, Magnolia will release the film in the first quarter of 2015, which likely means a January or February release, probably a NY/LA limited release with day-to-date VOD release.
According to THR’s report, “Serena” was rejected by several buyers before it was picked up by Magnolia. The movie will not receive an Oscar qualifying run this year and it’s apparently been cut beyond repair. “The film was so edited, it made no sense,” one anonymous buyer is quoted as saying. Another anonymous studio buyer described the movie as “uneven, particularly Lawrence’s [descent into madness].”
Frankly, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but that hasn’t stopped fan sites from asking and assuming “Serena” was still a viable contender. It sounds like Magnolia should be announcing a firm date in the next few weeks or months. “Serena” premieres October 13 at the BFI London Film Festival. The movie will then be released October 24 in the U.K. and will begin rolling out internationally afterwards.