Jennifer Lawrence, the Hollywood sweetheart of this decade, is stumbling. Not in her performances, let’s be clear—Ms. Jennifer has proven herself time and time again to be a formidable actress—yet her choice in movies has led her down a path of box office disappointments and critical flops. To put the star’s recent struggles in perspective, let’s consider one of her films that’s so bad, and was so quickly buried, barely anyone has seen it. Before there was Red Sparrow, mother! and Passengers, there was Serena.
The little-known 2014 film—which stars Lawrence alongside permanent love interest Bradley Cooper—barely made it to distribution, pulling box office earnings of under half a million dollars worldwide. How could a movie starring two A-listers, one at the peak of their it-girl moment, go so wrong?
In all fairness, Serena starts off just fine. As one might expect of a Depression-era period piece about the North Carolina timber industry—if ever there were such a genre—the film begins with the camera lovingly gliding over wooded, misty mountains. The landscape is beautiful, even breathtakingly so, and has an eeriness and personality to it that gestures towards drama to come. How exciting! Perhaps the opening credits seem like could have been produced on iMovie, but that’s part of the charm, right?
The emotional climax and the breaking point of Spike Jonze’s 2013 romantic science-fiction drama film Her, is a rather silent, smaller one: there are no fights, no raised voices, no unexpected car accidents. Its visual and audial qualities provide two very different realities: the former is muted in its similar world of addiction and isolation — maybe not even that different from our society, while the latter literally explodes in itself with emotional connection and sensuality. In what can only be described as the portrayal of the weirdest, yet still purest for some, form of human connection; the male protagonist Theodore Twombly, who is played by Joaquin Phoenix in a remarkable performance, sits on the stairs of the subway of the futuristic Los Angeles that the movie is set in, asking simple, yes-or-no type questions to the voice planted in his ears. On the other side of the picture is Samantha, a talking operating system with artificial intelligence voiced by Scarlett Johansson, answering slowly. Johansson’s signature tone is soothing, an invisible yet undeniable veil between what is designed and what is felt within the code-based existence of her character. Continue reading “Throwback Review: “Her” & The Mechanics of Human Condition”→
Hrutar, or Rams, follows the story of two brothers in despair. Situated in a remote Icelandic farming valley, Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) and Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) have not spoken for forty years, despite being neighbours. Rams sees the siblings unite to save their livelihood and what is most important to them: their flocks of sheep. However, Rams is also a poignant film taking on revenge, and perhaps even the futility of it when it is pushed to extremes. Rams can be considered Grímur Hákonarson’s first film to take the western world by a surprising storm (in a relative sense).