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Searching for 'Serena,' the Missing Movie Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

August 27, 2014

Between Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper made another movie together: The Depression-era drama Serena. Never heard of it? That’s because Serena, which was shot two years ago, still doesn’t have a trailer, a film-festival slot, or a U.S. distributor. All that exists is a just-announced U.K. release date of Oct. 24, and a couple of photos, including the above shot of Lawrence on a horse, published today by Stylist. The picture captures the rustic regality of the film, which follows husband-and-wife team of George and Serena Pemberton (Cooper and Lawrence) as they build a timber empire in North Carolina. Their ruthless ambition eventually turns to madness, as Serena decides to protect her fortune by any means necessary.  

How is it possible for a movie featuring one of Hollywood’s most popular star pairings to stay out of theaters for so long? Serena has all the right ingredients: It’s based on a bestselling 2008 novel, directed by accomplished Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (winner of the 2011 Best Foreign Language film Oscar for In a Better World), and features Lawrence in the kind of role that seems made-to-order for awards season (the Academy has a known fondness for women in period costumes losing their minds). The movie was big news when it was announced amid early Hunger Games buzz, and since then, Lawrence and Cooper have appeared in two hit films together, receiving Oscar nominations for both. Still, there’s still no word on when Serena might arrive in the U.S.

One possible reason for the hold-up is that director Bier took 18 months to complete the film. Such an extended production process is usually a sign that a film is in bad shape, though a Hollywood Reporter source claimed that the director is simply “a total perfectionist” and felt intense pressure from Silver Linings Playbook’s success. “We didn’t want to be the OK version of the Jennifer Lawrence-Bradley Cooper coupling,” the same source told THR last November. At that time, buzz was mounting for American Hustle, and THR reported that Serena was being “quietly shopped to buyers.”

And yet, there’s been no subsequent news about the movie, other than the release of a few promotional stills in March, and an announcement earlier this month that the visual effects work had been completed. Prior to today’s U.K. release announcement, the film was so off-the-radar that a July 31 tweet about European release dates (which have apparently since been changed) went largely unnoticed.

It’s rare that a movie with this caliber of star power and prestige goes unreleased in the U.S., though there is one other recent example: The Coen brothers-scripted comedy Gambit, starring Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth, which was shelved in 2012 and quietly surfaced on Netflix and DVD this spring.

Whatever happens with Serena, at least Bradley Cooper got what he wanted out of it. In an interview published this August, Cooper told South Jersey Magazine that he took the role of George Pemberton because he was “very anxious to work with [Beir], who is one of the world’s outstanding filmmakers,” and also because he “wanted to learn to ride a horse.”