Serenity

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ABSTRACT

Conclusions and Relevance  If you like watching Matthew McConaughey do anything or nothing at all with his shirt off, this movie was made for you. Further, if the idea of a topless Matthew McConaughey trying to reel in a giant tuna makes you involuntarily gnaw at whatever it is you happen to be holding in your hand then this is must see cinema. For the rest of us, not seeing Serenity will add 1 hour and 59 minutes to what poet Mary Oliver calls our “wild and precious life”.

With a TBI (Taco Bell Index) of 1, i.e., one car in the Taco Bell drive thru near the movie theater, Serenity was doomed from the start. Consequently it happened to be an extremely low turnout for opening night. Word must have gotten out. Do people read reviews? Or at least the headlines of reviews? In any case, I came in open minded and found there are actually a few things that Serenity has going for it. In terms of production design, it’s fantastic. The creation of Plymouth Island is impeccable down to the Maersk logo on the shipping container that professional fisherman Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) calls home. And it’s enough to throw you off in an interesting way. Examples: Speaking French but driving on the British side of the road. Caribbean style street vending carts and the typical pastel colors of that region but in a Polynesian landscape. Shrines to Hindu deities yet a constant spin of zydeco on the radio thrown into the mix. All to seal the idea of a place that is everywhere and nowhere. There is also some genre bending, with a noir drama meeting a psychological sci-fi thriller. Serenity is an elaborate Twilight Zone episode peppering you with some well-thought-out clues along the way. Solid performances by Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou and Jeremy Strong shore up this tangled web of McConaughey letting lose and going Full McConaughey — in the best way. 

So where does Serenity go sideways? I was going to say where does Serenity sink but my better half (not D, but rather my wife) informs me that I am too young to be making those types of jokes. However, I’m not too young to make dudity jokes, of which many were made at the theater as there is a fair amount McConaughey dudity (aka male nudity) as referenced in the abstract to this review. Back to the point being that the reveal, the twist, is exposed too soon. The denouement spreads into a facepalm inducing news reporter VO, then into a vomit-in-my-mouth-a-little inducing slo-mo hug of father son saccharine sap and mercifully crashes in an epilogue of a drone shot into the sunset. As the lights come up in the theater I commence with the head shaking. Why did the filmmakers let ACT III unravel like that? Was it a spell that McConaughey cast over them? I believe it was something to that effect. Not unlike the protagonist of this film, the filmmakers had a hard time viewing the story objectively. Some of this films’ strongest points come when issues of PTSD and existential epistemology are explored. But these lines of inquiry are quickly abandoned in favor of the noir yarn and so neither philosophy or McConaughey’s bare ass can cary the amount of credulity needed for this exploding can of worms narrative. In Serenity, the big one does get away. (Sorry, can’t help it.) Ultimately, as the TBI indicates, if you pass on Serenity you won’t be missing much. 

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