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article imageReview: ‘Serenity’ is working towards the unexpected (and unnecessary?) Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 25, 2019 in Entertainment
‘Serenity’ starts off as a solid neo-noir before turning into something completely different, which runs the risk of derailing the narrative and alienating audiences.
Living in a small town is great – except when it’s not. With fewer people populating the area, you’re more likely to know your neighbours but must also be more careful not to make too many enemies. It can be annoying when everyone knows everyone else’s business… but occasionally beneficial. On the one hand, busybodies inquire about things that don’t concern them; on the other, news travels so fast you can act on an opportunity or avoid something harmful before it’s even decided. Serenity is about a fisherman who’s been looking for peace for a long time, but a carefully watched series of events is about to push him further from its embrace.
Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) feels a compulsion to catch a giant tuna he’s named Justice. The need is illogical to everyone else and even causes him to act erratically in its pursuit. But his generally easygoing existence is about to be disrupted by a new, irrational impulse. Plymouth is a tight-knit community in which everyone takes notice of strangers, so when a well-dressed woman named Karen (Anne Hathaway) arrives and immediately seeks out Dill, word quickly spreads. Her rich, abusive husband (Jason Clarke) enjoys sport fishing and she wants his next trip out to be one-way. Everything screams at Dill that it’s a bad idea, but once he gets an idea in his head it’s hard to turn back.
This movie appears fairly straightforward — until Dill finally meets with the thin man in the suit (Jeremy Strong) that’s been pursuing him all over the island. Then, suddenly, everything that seemed a little strange takes on greater significance and what follows only confirms/confuses matters. Dill is clearly a man with a few demons at his back, but it turns out there’s something bigger at play of which even he was unaware. The infusion of a science fiction subplot is not entirely unexpected, though it’s still a somewhat surprising turn of events that steers the conclusion in a very different direction.
Karen is modelled after the classic femme fatale, from her appearance to her speech. Her style consists of large hats, form-fitting, expensive-looking outfits, and the all-important bright red lipstick. She speaks in a seductive whisper that always sounds like she’s trying to get someone into bed. She tries to use her sexual wiles to sway Dill, but he’s not interested — there’s only one person he’d kill for now, no matter how much her husband seems to deserve it. The would-be victim is a blowhard that takes pleasure from hurting or humiliating others and using his ill-gotten wealth to make people bend to his will. There aren’t a lot of redeeming qualities between the three, but it does make for a good neo-noir narrative.
Dill walks the line between charmer and antagonist, the latter emerging when his obsession gets the better of him. McConaughey is flawless as the character’s charisma comes naturally to him, while the gradual bewilderment turned resolution evolves genuinely. Similarly, Clarke is not unfamiliar with despicable characters, and he convincingly oozes anger and hate. Hathaway’s performance, however, sometimes feels forced, though she does present all the right qualities. Djimon Hounsou portrays Dill’s first mate, closest friend and self-elected conscience, which is made difficult by his involuntary charge but sincere nonetheless.
This movie is full of surprises and not all of them may be welcome as it tries to stay true to its blend of genres… while also letting McConaughey put it all out there.
Director: Steven Knight
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Diane Lane
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