WILD AT HEART
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper play a couple descending into madness and murder in the rugged mountains of North Carolina
While hunting with colleagues in the Snowy Mountains of North Carolina in 1929, lumber baron George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) declares that he wants to bag a panther.
He’s about to land himself a wildcat of a different sort: a glamorous young wife, Serena Shaw (Jennifer Lawrence). Serena has blonde hair in a wavy bob, like a silent movie star, and a family background in the timber trade to boot.
A better partner in business and life for George seems hard to imagine.
She also claims not to be bothered by the fact that George had previously been dallying with a female employee (Ana Ularu).
Times are tough: the stock market has crashed and George is struggling to keep his business.
To make matters worse, lobbyists want to convert his patch of forest to national park.
But George isn’t against a little amorality if it’s going to help him succeed, and neither is Serena.
The last time we saw Cooper and Lawrence together they were generating sparks in the romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook.
In Serena, they again have palpable sexual chemistry, but in the service of a deadly serious melodrama with echoes of Macbeth.
Danish director Susanne Bier is working from a 2008 novel by Ron Rash. She brings a compelling sense of time and place to this rural noir with evocative mountain scenery (the Czech Republic stands in for North Carolina).
Her main triumph, though, is in the casting.
This is a fairly melodramatic story of madness and murder but Lawrence grounds it with her powerful and natural performance.
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Serena.