People who complain trailers give away too much or that movies have become predictable may find something to keep them guessing in “Serenity,” the strange new Matthew McConaughey thriller. Or is it a metaphysical drama? Or should I call it a new age noir? I honestly don’t know what to file this under. However you classify it, this weird film will keep you guessing for better and for worse. Strange days indeed.
McConaughey is Baker Dill, the broke, headstrong owner of a boat for hire in the crystal clear waters surrounding the remote Plymouth Island. “In Plymouth everyone knows everything,” says Reid Miller (Jeremy Strong). “Except what’s going on,” drawls Dill.
He’s a Captain Ahab type, minus the prosthetic leg made out of whalebone, and obsessed with hooking and reeling in a giant tuna he calls Justice. Everyone on the tiny island knows of his obsession. Even the local radio announcer broadcasts, “It’s a perfect day to go out and catch that damn fish,“ during his weather update.
He’s a haunted man, troubled by the carnage he witnessed in Iraq and the family, wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) and son Patrick (Rafael Sayegh), he lost to divorce. When Karen reappears with a job offer it sends him into a tailspin. “I’m here to tell you that you were right and I was wrong about Frank,” she says about her new husband, a wealthy but abusive man played by Jason Clarke. Her deal is simple. “Take him out on your boat, let him get drunk and dump him in the ocean. Do it and I’ll give you $10 million.” Divorce is not an option she adds. “He’ll find a hole for me in one of his construction sites.“ Dill is conflicted until he hears that Frank has been violent with Patrick. Now all bets are off.
There’s more but you won’t read it here because this is about the time in “Serenity” where the story takes a left turn that would make M. Night” Shyamalan green with envy. Does it work? Not really but you have to give credit to writer-director Steven Knight for swinging for the fences. That it’s a foul ball is unfortunate because the gears shift from neo-noir to existential treatise on the fundamentals of life is the kind of risky move that we don’t see much of these days.
You don’t just see a movie like “Serenity,” you witness it.
It is one of the most baffling movies to come along in years. McConaughey is in full-blown “are-we-all-just-pawns-in-a-great-big-game?” mode while Hathaway convincing channels femme-fatale Veronica Lake. Both give heightened performances but the tone of the piece is so off kilter I can’t decide whether they are sleepwalking through this toward a paycheque or doing some edgy work.
If nothing else “Serenity” takes chances, not the kind of chances that are likely to please an audience but at least you can’t guess how it will end. Intrigued?