Serenity is an early contender for the worst film of 2019. It's a trainwreck, completely absurd on multiple fronts. It's mind-boggling that a film by acclaimed screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Allied), with A-list talent Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, could be such a disaster. Serenity's high concept script was not ably translated to the big screen. The aim was for a noir thriller with science fiction elements. The end product is a poorly acted, meandering mystery with horrendous sex scenes. Serenity's puzzling failure of execution falls squarely on Knight's shoulders. It's a reminder that a great writer can deliver a clunker, and does not always live up to expectations as a director.
Serenity takes place on the Caribbean-esque Plymouth Island. Matthew McConaughey stars as Baker Dill, a hard luck fisherman with a penchant for booze and women. He's obsessed with catching the big one, a behemoth tuna that has eluded his grasp. His first mate and best friend, Duke (Djimon Hounsou), constantly tries to keep their business afloat. Ignore the damn creature and just fish for money like everyone else.
Baker's life becomes complicated by the appearance of his sultry ex-wife, Karen (Anne Hathaway). She's become a punching bag for her tyrannical new husband (Jason Clarke). Baker's only concern is the welfare of their young son, Patrick (Rafael Sayegh). Karen is trapped and fears for both of their lives. She wants Baker, an Iraq War veteran, to eliminate her biggest problem. Baker considers her proposal, but bizarre events lead him to question everything he knows.
Let's start with the way the film depicts women. The female leads, Anne Hathaway and Diane Lane, are reduced to ridiculous sexpots. Their sweaty, smokey sex scenes with Matthew McConaughey belong in a softcore B-movie. Hathaway's husky voice sounds like a phone sex operator with laryngitis. Her sauntering, femme fatale persona lurches into the comical. Then we have the buff, bare-assed, perpetually wet McConaughey as the fisherman/lothario. He's given some emotional range, attempting to add a semblance of gravitas to the ludicrous script. It's a decent effort that fails utterly. The entire ensemble is clunky and forced. Steven Knight squanders a top tier cast with awful dialogue and characterization.
Serenity drops its big reveal midway with an epic thud. This head-scratching twist veers the film in an entirely different direction. Steven Knight unfortunately takes a page from the climax-killing methodology of M. Night Shyamalan. Any interest up this point vanishes like a fart in the wind. I can't fathom why this bomb wasn't dropped in the third act. It's laughably stupid, but would have had more punch at the end. This is a strange turn from a lauded screenwriter. Steven Knight knows how to plot a thrilling finale. It's hard to believe Serenity is from the same writer as Dirty Pretty Things. Knight basically sets his own film up for failure.
Serenity's release date was pushed back three times to the doldrums of January. I will surmise that distributor Aviron Pictures is hoping the island setting and Oscar winning stars will draw winter weary audiences. Don't be suckered by the advertising. Serenity is just awful. I can't recommend this film under any circumstances.