There is a “Seinfeld” episode that introduces the phrase “Serenity now!” as a psychological coping tool, and the second part of the phrase ends up being “insanity later;” this is also the plot of the Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway film called “Serenity.” A catastrophically reviewed box office disaster starring two Oscar winners is a special event, and “Serenity” is bad in a special way.
McConaughey stars as Baker Dill, which is not a salmon recipe but is his ludicrous assumed name. He was John, an unmarried father and Iraq War vet, but now he’s living on a remote fishing island as Dill, a fisherman doggedly pursuing a certain fish which has named “Justice.” The dignified Djimon Honsou, bless his heart, plays it straight as the sensible first mate to McConaughey’s lion-maned Captain Ahab. When Dill doesn’t make enough money taking people fishing, he pays a visit to a lusty lady played by Diane Lane, giving us the first of many glimpses at McConaughey’s bare buns.
Brooding over his elusive fish, Dill swims nude and receives some kind of psychic messages from a little boy, his estranged son from a previous relationship with Anne Hathaway. Soon, from all the gin joints in all the world, she chooses Baker Dill’s, purring in a femme fatale mode that can only be described as over the top. It is not helpful that her character’s name is Karen, a moniker tainted by its current ubiquity in memes. When Dill snarls “Karen,” at her, it becomes somewhat farcical.
Karen is in town to get Dill on board with a bold plan to kill the fellow she dumped him for, a wealthy, abusive monster played by Jason Clarke, who soon joins them on the island and up the ante in the chewing up of what must be really delicious scenery. But this is not merely a hammy mystery with a frequently nude all star cast. Eventually, we discover that things aren’t what they seem, that the contrived plot is not simply the result of a hackneyed script, but is an intentional plot device.
If you like plot twists, you will love “Serenity,” because this twist is a doozy. This will go down in history next to “The Usual Suspects,” “The Sixth Sense,” and “Inception,” except terrible. However, having lodged all these entirely justified complaints against this flick, I sort of had fun watching it, and not just the extended McConaughey skinny dips.
I think this might have an eventual second life as a so-bad-it’s- good, “Showgirls” kind of experience; it just needs reframing as overtly ludicrous. It’s a wild, fun ride if you start with the proper mindset. “Serenity” has some cinematographic and, shall we say, physiological, eye candy going and- a point upon which I admittedly place too much importance – it’s not too long.
This misadventure ended up being more gut-busting than mind-bending, but ignore the high brow aspirations and enjoy the schlocky delights of Anne Hathaway approaching a boat in a heavy rainstorm, dressed in a trench coat and fedora that evokes Carmen Sandiego as much as it does Lauren Bacall. I don’t like to use the term “hate-watching” because it seems like a terrible idea to intentionally experience “hate,” however “Serenity” does deliver a viewing experience that probably diverges from its original objectives, yet is not without its own unintentional amusements and guilty pleasures.
“Serenity” is currently available to rent.
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