Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

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domino harvey
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Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#1 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:02 pm


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domino harvey
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Re: Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#2 Post by domino harvey » Thu May 09, 2019 6:47 pm

I lost track of this one after it played film festivals a few years ago and then got buried, but all I knew was that it was a noir starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway with a contentious twist and everyone hated it. I foolishly thought that since it's not uncommon for audiences/critics to not be on the same wavelength of the pleasures of real noir storytelling in modern films, this is all I needed to know and it was probably worth checking out. Uh, incorrect. The only good that came out of this is that now I’m the first one on the board to write about one of those Collateral Beauty/the Book of Henry movies. Wait, this movie can’t really be on that level, you’re asking yourself. Well, I’ll start you off outside of spoiler-land, and then you can decide for yourself if you want to ruin one of the dumbest movies you’ll ever see by clicking the box.

McConaughey is a washed up fishing captain who makes what little money he has by taking out tourists on his boat to catch trout. The rest of the time he floats around the small tropical (?) island of Plymouth (??) interacting with colorful locals, including a slumming Diane Lane as some rando sad MILF (???) and Djimon Hounsou as his first mate. That’s right, four Oscar winners and/or nominees headline this piece of shit. That means all four of their agents read this script, and then all four actors read the script, and somehow not one of these eight people stopped this movie from happening.

McConaughey is obsessed with catching an elusive fish. The fish’s name is Justice. This Means Something. Anne Hathaway, dead on arrival as a femme fatale, shows up one dark night to entice McConaughey to kill her abusive husband, Jason Clarke, for the ridiculously large sum of ten million dollars. How EVIL is Jason Clarke’s sleazebag in this movie? Well, his first scene is him forcing Hathaway to strip nude so he can inspect her for marks before whipping her with his belt for, and I quote, “an hour and a half” (????). A very nuanced portrayal, I think you’ll agree, and that's even before he talks about wanting to pay island girls $10 to "take it up the ass."

Oh, and Hathaway is McConaughey’s ex and she’s really appealing to his love for his son whom he has abandoned after rough times in Iraq. The teenager just plays on his computer all day while his mom gets the shit beat out of her apparently non-stop. You’d think Clarke would need to take a breather from his abuse, but nope, it runs 24-7 in every shot of this kid at his computer, playing away from behind the screen like the shots of Emma Roberts in Nerve. Even though the two are estranged, father and son have a psychic bond by which his son is able to know what his father says. Hathaway and McConaughey accept this as a thing that could be. You're probably already thinking the twist has something to do with this. Well, actually...

So this is already stupid enough, but not outrageously so. But then there’s another character, a dorky businessman in full business suit who keeps trying to track down McConaughey to sell him fishing equipment. One stormy night the man finally catches up with McConaughey and reveals
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That his name is The Rules and he’s persistent to talk to McConaughey because there’s no killing on Plymouth Island. That’s one of the rules of the video game McConaughey and everyone else is characters within. Yes, everything we’ve seen so far is gameplay, orchestrated by McConaughey’s son, who has created this game as a way of coping with his mom’s abuse by playing as McConaughey’s character in a game called Catch the Fish. But now the boy’s changed the game, because, as the film overstates with a lack of subtlety that would make Stanley Kramer roll his eyes, the boy is gathering courage to kill his stepfather in real life.

The film then turns into a combination of the Truman Show and that episode of the Twilight Zone where the toys in the donation bin don’t realize they’re not humans, which could potentially be fun. Except this film has no real curiosity about this stupid premise. We very briefly get a few moments of McConaughey rebelling against his programming, as when he wakes up before his programmed five o’clock alarm and can’t move because the game hasn’t programmed him to yet, but the movie could use a lot more of this and a lot less of everything else. Of course what it could really use is none of this at all, but…

Also, following through on the logic of the premise, this means that McConaughey’s 13 year old son wrote a computer program in which his dad has sex with Diane Lane for money and his mom erotically purrs out “Choke me daddy” while forcing Jason Clarke to wrap his crippled, blood-soaked hand around her neck. I am also certain that there will one day be an enjoyable Everything is Terrible video collecting all the other weird moments from this movie, like McConaughey randomly screaming into the air over and over or showing his ass every ten minutes… all of which, again, has been programmed by his son, for a character who isn’t real, but is imagined to be real, and who kills the Bad Dad in The Game while the real son kills the Bad Dad in Real Life and then rewrites the program again to allow for the game to be Father and Son Reunited While the Sun Is All Twinkly and the Music Swells.

So, in summation, an abused child creates a video game so incredibly detailed that its characters come to life (?????) and programs in a scene in which his dad has rough, disappointing sex with his mom right after he realizes she’s been beaten and raped by her current husband. You'll also hear some variation of the phrase "Catch the fish" uttered at least 200 times in 109 minutes. I don’t play video games, but somehow I think there’s some part of all of this that does not have its finger on the pulse of the medium.

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Re: Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#3 Post by Cremildo » Thu May 09, 2019 7:29 pm

I bet few would disagree that reading your pan is considerably more entertaining than watching the misguided mess that is the movie. It beggars belief that Serenity came from the same mind that created Eastern Promises.

As a
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videogame player,
for me the woeful twist wasn't exactly a huge surprise - it was heavily hinted at by Knight's random, jerky camera movements that emulate
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"camera" shifts in third-person gameplay
.

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domino harvey
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Re: Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#4 Post by domino harvey » Thu May 09, 2019 7:39 pm

Ha, I just thought that was a weird choice at the time, but you’re right! No worries though, there were plenty enough other “clues” in the first hour that made the revelation only a surprise on the incredulous level of “This can’t really be what’s going on”

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tehthomas
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Re: Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#5 Post by tehthomas » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:42 pm

This is currently on Amazon Prime and um wow. Probably the "best" WTF trashy bad movie of the year. And sorta well made, good photography in despite of itself. McConaughey kept me engaged, I kinda dug the whole fisherman life thing. Anne Hathaway and Jason Clarke (he is terrible in everything) are so bad they're good.

Nasir007
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Re: Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#6 Post by Nasir007 » Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:44 am

This is a an entirely ridiculous preposterous movie. 2 Oscar winners couldn't have signed up for this.

It doesn't stand up to even the smallest level of scrutiny. I can't get past how ridiculous the twist is. Like holy cow. How was this greenlit.

The shock like someone said isn't what the twist is. The shock is that the movie was actually made.

PS: I will give McC credit. He really is an engaging leading man. He's definitely giving it his all. The greatest catastrophe is his agreeing to do this film.

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#7 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:57 pm

I watched this as it was on Sky (seemingly bypassing cinemas). It was dreadful. I assume it was greenlit as part of Knight's contract for some of his screenwriting work, or because Locke had good reviews. And if you can get MMc and Hathaway in a throwaway role for a small budget movie, who'll say no? The plot twist is so ludicrous I'm actually impressed Knight thought it up.

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Monterey Jack
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Re: Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#8 Post by Monterey Jack » Wed Aug 14, 2019 9:57 pm

What's baffling about the Big Twist is that the movie doesn't even save it for a "surprise" reveal in the concluding moments...it lays its cards on the table a little less than HALFWAY THROUGH and yet continues to play out the events of a story that the audience is now fully aware is
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completely fabricated bullshit.
It's a fascinatingly "bold" narrative choice I can't wrap my mind around.

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Never Cursed
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Re: Serenity (Steven Knight, 2019)

#9 Post by Never Cursed » Thu Aug 15, 2019 9:37 pm

How in the world does one come up with something as wildly high-concept as the premise for this, and then do absolutely nothing with the concept?
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I'd honestly be interested in a noirish exploration of this same videogame concept (making the prerequisite fatalism of a noir literal through characters that actually have their actions hardcoded into them) if it had something, anything, to say about the genre or videogames or consciousness (all themes that the movie brings up and immediately discards in favor of more McConaughey ass). But Knight is blissfully unaware of the philosophical and critical questions he's raising, instead choosing to indulge the pointless-on-multiple-levels murder plot that loses all meaning after the reveal. Beyond that, though, the film is horrible in an uninteresting way, loaded with melodramatic dialogue straight out of The Room and awkward overediting that ruins some otherwise pretty location shooting. So much (still) untapped potential wasted, good lord - at least someone else still has a chance to do a story like this both competently and with an actual thematic message to go with the raison d'être of the film.

Oh, and as someone who plays a bunch of videogames myself, it wasn't too hard to spot a few (obvious and desperate-feeling) videogame references myself. First, the fish company named Fontaine Fisheries is a reference to a company of the same name from Bioshock, which dealt with similar themes of the unknowing manipulation of the protagonist through a controller character, but, no surprise, to much greater effect. Second, the always late, constantly observing, nameless suit-and-tie wearing man with knowledge of a reality beyond the game's is ripped straight from Half-Life, though for what reason I cannot ascertain. Overall, though, twenty seconds of the positively meatheaded (something I say with great affection) Max Payne say more about videogames than this film ever does.

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