Review: Serenity (2019)

What the fuck was this nonsense?

As the usher checked my ticket for Serenity (2019), she laughed and said, “good luck.” Not exactly words of encouragement after you’ve spent $20 on admission and popcorn. Recently I’ve cut back on getting popcorn at the movies for health and financial reasons, but I indulged this time after being bored to tears during my recent screening of At Eternity’s Gate (2018). By the way, you can check out that review here. Long story short, I was so bored during that movie that I wished I had bought some popcorn just so I’d have something to pass the time. Learning from my past mistake, I bought a small popcorn and I have to say…thank God I did.

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Credit: imdb.com / Aviron Pictures

A mind-bending thriller, Serenity takes place on Plymouth Island where fisherman Baker Dill, played by Matthew McConaughey, spends his days taking tourists fishing on his boat, and drinking. When his ex-wife Karen, played by Anne Hathaway, suddenly appears, she requests that he take her abusive new husband out on his boat and throw him to the sharks. Yes, it’s absolutely as bonkers as it sounds. The movie then spends an hour and a half on Dill wrestling with the decision to act on murder to save his ex-wife and son, or continue his days of fishing and drinking.

You guys: I. COULD. NOT. WITH. THIS. MOVIE.

Look, I really like Anne Hathaway, and I’m more or less indifferent to Matthew McConaughey.  I acknowledge that they’re skilled, Oscar-winning actors. However, even their combined star-power wasn’t enough to save this garbage fire of a movie. It may sound harsh, but the number of this movie’s redeeming qualities was truly zero to none. There is so much that works against Serenity that I hardly know where to begin. The biggest problem by far is that it fails to recognize how ridiculously convoluted and at times, stupid, it is. Written and directed by Steven Knight, Serenity often feels like it’s trying too hard, attempting to emulate great thrillers with twist endings like Psycho (1960) and The Sixth Sense (1999). If anything, Serenity is an unintentional parody of those movies. Believing itself to be sleek, sexy, and mysterious, Knight’s film delivers a final product that is nothing of the sort, and instead, mind-numbingly annoying. To its credit, Serenity does begin with a tense and interesting premise, but then squanders it with an abundance of over the top and cheesy performances that make it hard to take the movie seriously. We’ll talk about it, but here’s a little tease: Dill almost slits a tourist’s throat over a fish. A FISH.

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Credit: imdb.com / Aviron Pictures

Featuring an all-star cast that includes Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou, and Jason Clarke, I genuinely felt bad for every actor involved in this movie. Not only are they trapped in a story with a nonsensical and eyeroll-worthy plot, but no one outside of the two leads gets anything worthwhile to say or do, and if they are given screentime, they’re given poorly-written and nauseating dialogue. The dialogue in Serenity is atrocious. At one point Dill laments to the owner of the tackle shop about how he’s running low on supplies and says without any irony, totally deadpan: “I’m a hooker who can’t afford hooks.”

I feel like this is a good segue to talk about McConaughey and Hathaway. What the hell was going on with them? They had no idea the type of movie they were in. Both approach their roles in an overly-serious manner, and it’s almost as if they’re acting like people who have never acted before. It’s like they’re in a comedy and they’re playing people who have to pretend to be actors and have no idea how, so they just amp every emotion they’re asked to convey up to an 11. Again, they’re just trying so hard to convince you this is a super serious thriller, when it’s really just an extended episode of Deadliest Catch (2005 – present).

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Credit: imdb.com / Aviron Pictures

Surprisingly, there is one adequate performance in Serenity, and it comes courtesy of Jason Clarke, who plays Karen’s wealthy new husband, Frank. A stereotypical villain riddled with clichés, what makes Frank an entertaining antagonist is that he’s one you love to hate. I’d even go as far as admit that I experienced genuine thrills when Baker complemented throwing Frank overboard a mere hour after meeting him. Frank’s deplorable presence helps move the slow pacing along, and thankfully anchors the constant craziness in some semblance of a narrative. Clarke is so deliciously cruel that he only strengthens my theory that Serenity should have been a straightforward neo-noir thriller, instead of devolving into a tonally-confused cringe-fest with a lacklustre twist.

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Credit: imdb.com / azcentral.com

So, the twist. Admittedly, you don’t really see it coming. The movie lays the groundwork for the big reveal and partially succeeds in generating some intrigue as to what’s going on. However, once the twist is finally revealed, it’s all downhill from there. Your jaw will drop after realizing just how nonsensical it is, and wish for something, anything, more interesting or thrilling. I appreciate that Knight has crafted an original story, something that’s becoming increasingly rare these days, but if Serenity is the outcome of said original ideas, I’m fine with waiting a few years for Knight’s next one.

Serenity is undoubtedly the first terrible movie of 2019 and honestly, makes a strong case to claim the title of “worst movie of the year.” There will be stiff competition though. We still have Sonic the Hedgehog (2019) and Dora the Explorer (2019) to get through. Yes, unfortunately those are both really happening. Confusing, boring, and almost laughable, you can 100 per cent give this movie a skip. Unless you’re a fan of Matthew McConaughey’s ass. I swear to God, this movie devoted more runtime to McConaughey’s ass then it did to Diane Lane. She’s an Academy Award nominee for God’s sake! Unbelievable.

Will you give Serenity a chance? What are your favourite movie twists?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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