Serenity, the latest film from Steven Knight, features a knockout cast with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou and Diane Lane. The idyllic setting cannot salvage the ludicrous tale. Now in theaters.
Someone asked me the other night when I figured out the twist in Steven Knight’s Serenity, which opens in theaters today. I won’t share my answer here, because it seems that this film is destined to give moviegoers as much heartburn and indigestion as it did me.
The story itself, written by Mr. Knight, who also wrote the screenplays for Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things and Closed Circuit is a fairly straightforward noir with Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) in the lead role of a fisherman down on his luck. The island of Plymouth is an idyllic Caribbean setting where the blue skies run infinitesimally for 360 degrees around the island Dill has vivid dreams every night about an elusive tuna fish called Justice that he cannot catch.
Not everything in Serenity is serene.
The story takes an odd turn when his ex-wife, Karen Zariakas (Anne Hathaway) shows up one day, demanding that Baker kill her new husband under the guise of a fishing expedition, the wealthy and dangerous Frank Zariakas. Dill refuses, saying that he has a moral compass.
Diane Lane is Constance, the town concubine who, ironically, pays Dill for sex. If I weren’t in hysterics over the film as a whole, I might have appreciated the irony even more. Djimon Hounsou plays Duke, Dill’s boatswain. Duke has constant disagreements with the way that Dill handles himself and his affairs. But Duke, along with Constance is much more than the sum of their characters. Mr. Knight doesn’t make these observations directly though, drifting those characteristics out to sea, as it were.
Okay, I’ll get us back to an even keel.
As the murder plot unfolds, Dill’s dreams keep getting more and more in depth, prompting him to agree to his ex-wife’s demands. At the same time as his dreams become more lucid, Mr. Knight treats us to scenes of Dill’s son, Patrick (Rafael Sayegh). Dill’s dreams, reminiscent of Hemingway, and Patrick’s appearance in the film are meant to be related. The way the stories are layered on top of each other though brought more chuckles and guffaws; the twists and turns in the story are so vibrant to the point where they become overly ludicrous.
McConaughey portrays the role with the same zest and zeal we’ve seen from him countless times before. Hathaway carries her character with disdain, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. She looks stunning in her fashionable wardrobe as she commits carnal sins.
The one curveball character in this entire scenario is that of Jeremy Strong’s Reid Miller. He is a salesman on an island where everyone knows everyone else’s business, yet like clockwork he always shows up at the most awkward points in the story. The conversation between he and Dill is as non-committal as the rest of the film. Kudos to Knight for trying to use this moment to stitch the plot together, but instead we end up hemmed right into the threads of the remainder of the story.
The references made to Mr. Knight’s prior works should give some indication of where this story was meant to go. A stronger, better cast, I don’t think we could have asked for. It’s the minutiae in the plot that renders the story so unbelievable that you have no choice but to watch it unfold, laughing to yourself as it does. I give Serenity points for creativity, but Lifetime called and it wants its lifelines back.
Now in theaters, Serenity is rated R by the MPAA.