Serenity is one of the wackiest films of 2019


Serenity takes some of the weirdest twists and turns of a movie in recent memory, and the trainwreck is hard to look away from.

The cinematic dumping ground known as January is littered with the bodies of movies not good enough to release during the high-trafficked months. But sometimes a movie ends up in January that connects with a certain audience who knows what it’s trying to do and embraces it for all its weirdness and insanity.

Enter Steven Knight’s Serenity, a movie that could be part of a demented triple feature containing Winter’s Tale and Mommie Dearest. Serenity is a midnight movie waiting to be embraced by those who want to gather some friends, kick back in an empty theater and lovingly question just what everyone was thinking when they put this together. Serenity is weird and nonsensical, but tempered by impeccable acting that just might make it the smartest dumb movie ever made.

The island location of Plymouth is self-described as the “most beautiful island in this damn, dirty world” by a throaty-voiced radio announcer who in no way is directly speaking to just one man. Said man is Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey), a local fisherman who, Ahab-like, is out to hunt a trophy fish “called Justice” that he can’t seem to catch.

Photo Credit: Graham Bartholomew / Aviron Pictures

He spends his days out on the sea, trying to rob Peter to pay Paul — Peter being Diane Lane’s Constance who Baker sleeps with for money — in order to keep his boat afloat. One day, out of the fog, a vision from his past appears in the form of Karen (Anne Hathaway). Karen is his ex who asks Baker to kill her abusive husband (Jason Clarke).

That’s all you need to know and all the trailers are open to showing you. Serenity starts out as a throwback to the hardboiled films noirs of the 1940s. Outside of his bizarre name that makes no sense, McConaughey’s Baker Dill is a shadowy man running away from something in his past. He drinks out of a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug but considering he lives in a shipping container the mug ironically details his loneliness.

McConaughey, along with the rest of the cast, commit to their characters. He growls out lines like “there’s no law in Plymouth” but his effect is the same throughout. Is he going to kill a man or purchase one of those Lincolns the actor is always selling?

It’s easy to see why these characters caught the actors they did, though it’s assumed they only received script pages for the beginning of the movie. McConaughey gives us a performance similar to his work in Interstellar, filled with pathos and determination. Even when the film utterly switches over to its “twist,” McConaughey sells us a man questioning his own existence. Or who really wants to buy a Lincoln. (Sorry, but this movie could have easily put the Lincoln logo at the end and it would have made the same amount of sense.) But McConaughey is blown out of the water by his female co-stars who do the best work in the entire feature.

Photo Credit: Graham Bartholomew / Aviron Pictures

Looking like Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice and rocking a Marilyn Monroe-inspired mole and voice, Anne Hathaway continues to cement herself as our new noir queen. Where noirs of the golden era never did anything more than hint at abuse, Hathaway conveys Karen’s ability to hide her emotions. She’s breathy and sexual next to Clarke’s loud abuser, then demure and steely next to McConaughey’s Baker.

When Clarke breaks into her room to “surprise” her the facade crumbles, leaving Hathaway to simultaneously hold back tears and put on a smile that’s genuine. She’s exceedingly incredible and whether she knew what movie she was making or not she sells the performance 100 percent.

The same commitment can be given to Diane Lane who is flat-out wasted as the local… sex worker? She calls Baker a “hooker” but she literally never leaves her house and is only available for sex so I’m thinking the movie wants to have its cake and screw it too. Lane knows the noirish tone to go for and is great, but she deserves far more. The same can be said for Djimon Hounsou who plays the film’s literal moral center.

Photo Credit: Graham Bartholomew / Aviron Pictures

It’s almost unfair to review this movie without divulging into spoilers, but let’s say the third act, which you can figure out within the first 40 minutes if you pay attention, is utterly bonkers. Drawing from everything including Field of Dreams to Pleasantville and The Truman Show, Steven Knight’s script believes it’s an esoteric look at identity a la Vanilla Sky when it’s more in line with the S1m0ne. That being said, if you enjoyed Winter’s Tale or other weirdly earnest movies that go for broke, Serenity is for you.

There’s absolutely nothing like Serenity out there. It’s so insane, weird, dumb, and funny that you’ll be enthralled. Anne Hathaway is just so damn good you’ll simultaneously be saying, “I love her but what IS this movie?!”

And for a certain audience that’s good enough.