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Friday, January 25, 2019

Serenity

Serenity has the look of an A-List thriller.  And with talent like Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, and Diane Lane, it has the cast of an A-List thriller.  But what are we to make of the script, which is filled with dialogue only a screenwriter could love. (At one point, Hathaway tells McConaughey that his son can hear him through his computer.  Huh?) It's a total mess of a movie that almost makes me want to take back some of the things I said about Replicas with Keanu Reeves a couple weeks ago.  Almost.

Much like John Travolta's Battlefield Earth, or the infamous adaptation of The Scarlet Letter that featured Demi Moore, this is one of those movies that gets laughs, even though it's not trying to be funny in the slightest.  It wants to be a noir drama about lost love, hidden secrets, murder plots, and suspicious characters, including a business man who seems to be stalking McConaughey everywhere he goes.  But that's not all.  It also wants to be a Moby-Dick like story of obsession, as McConaughey's character tries desperately to catch a tuna that has alluded him for years.  But that's still not all!  It also wants to be the worst episode of The Twilight Zone you've ever seen, with a massive third act twist that is supposed to make us question everything that's come before, but only makes us roar with laughter, or at least roll our eyes if we're more polite.  None of these plot pieces connect, and the way that writer-director Steven Knight (The Girl in the Spider's Web) weaves them together is borderline incompetent.  This is one of those movies where the audience gathers outside the cinema when it's done, and tries to sort together what they've just witnessed, like onlookers of a traffic accident.

I'm going to have to be careful in describing the plot, so as not to give any secrets away for those who want to see it, which I do not advise.  Matthew McConaughey is the wonderfully-named Baker Dill, a man with a past who is living on a tropical paradise called Plymouth Island.  He rents his boat out to tourists for fishing tours, but he's rude to his customers, and seems obsessed with catching an allusive tuna fish that he has named Justice.  There are some locals on the island.  They include Duke (Djimon Hounsou), who works on Baker's boat and seems to be at his wit's end with his boss' frequently drunk and surly behavior, and Constance (Diane Lane), who when she's not paying Baker to have sex with her, spends the rest of her time wondering where her cat is.  This is a weird island filled with people who are supposed to be shady and mysterious, but because of the unnatural and completely off performances of most of the cast, they just come across as borderline insane.  Believe it or not, there is actually a reason why everyone on this island acts so strange.  One that I cannot reveal.  Still, seeing these talented actors forced to act so intentionally stilted and bizarre just makes you wonder what better projects they passed up in order to do this one.

Dill's past catches up with him when the sexy Karen (Anne Hathaway) shows up on the island.  Hathaway has been decked out with fake blonde hair, and an even faker looking beauty mark on her face, and she struts through the whole film like she's Bombshell Barbie.  Baker and Karen used to be married, and have a teenage son together that Dill has not seen in some time.  After they divorced, Karen married a wealthy, drunken and abusive lout named Frank (Jason Clarke), who likes to beat on her every chance he gets.  Clarke plays his role with such over the top villainy, you wonder what she even saw in him.  But that's only because his character has been written that way.  Shortly after he arrives on the island to join his wife on vacation, he asks the front desk clerk at the hotel where he can pay to have sex with young girls.  Karen has had enough of the brute, and has arranged this vacation so that Baker can murder her current husband.  She wants him to take Frank out on his fishing boat, and feed him to the sharks.  She offers him $10 million if he will do the job.

That's all I can say, unfortunately.  I have already hinted that there's some kind of big secret about the inhabitants of Plymouth Island.  As Baker becomes increasingly confused about the situation unfolding around him, he starts talking to himself a lot, and giving rambling, drunken monologues to nobody in particular that had me stifling my laughter, so as not to disturb the rest of the audience. (It wasn't a big audience, mind you, but I still wanted to be considerate.) As the plot builds and quickly spirals into sheer insanity, you just have to ask yourself, did anyone read the script in advance?  Did this dialogue actually sound good on paper?  Did nobody take one look at it, and realize it was total claptrap?  Did the invaluable Diane Lane really say yes to a role where she's introduced by having rough sex with McConaughey, then spends a majority of the film looking out her bedroom window, wondering where her cat has gone off to?  Why does the dialogue sound so leaden in this movie?  What possessed anyone to think this movie was releasable?

Serenity generates these questions, but gives no answers.  With these big stars attached, and a mysterious trailer that hints at big reveals, you might think that this is a dark adult thriller.  Don't be fooled.  It's nothing more than a dumb live action cartoon posing as an adult thriller.  The fact that this movie missed two release dates last year before being dumped in late January should tell you something.  Too bad it didn't miss more release dates.

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