There have been a few movies I remember watching that left me so shocked at the end, all I could muster to say was “What did I just watch?” Usually, those films have done something to surprise me in such a way that there is no way I’ll ever forget the experience. With Steven Knight’s new film Serenity (2019), those words came out of my mouth much earlier than I remember ever uttering them before. After I apologized to the people around me for my disruption and they nodded in agreement with my question, I continued to watch this crazy film unfold in a mix of disbelief, dismay, and intrigue.
Serenity made me wonder what this movie was almost instantly
Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) runs a deep sea fishing boat on Plymouth Island and is struggling to get by. He’s obsessed with a giant tuna, and is determined to catch it at all costs. His plans are altered when his ex-wife Karen Zariakas (Anne Hathaway) shows up to rent the boat for her new husband, Frank Zariakas (Jason Clarke) – but really wants Baker to take him out. He’s pulled into a world he isn’t expecting, and the small island is far too aware of his dilemma.
It’s impossible to explain how insane this movie is without including spoilers, which I’m not going to do. However, know that this film isn’t likely to be what you think it is if you’ve seen the trailer. Even the plot description above barely scratches the surface of the insanity. I knew I was in for something odd when the opening sequence starts with the camera underwater. A fishtail passes by, and the camera darts up and shoots out of the water. The music implies an action sequence, as the camera flies towards Serenity – the boat run by Baker – where two drunk men sleep in fishing chairs. McConaughey is balancing both versions of his performance style, and demonstrates how big and crazy he’s willing to go right away. Duke (Djimon Hounsou), Baker’s first mate, has to restrain him from attacking his clients when there is a dispute about reeling in the fish. It’s pretty bad, and yet it sets up the expectation for the rest of the film.
As the movie moves through Baker’s routine on the island and shows how tough he appears to have it, there are other curiosities afoot. Baker appears to talk to someone who isn’t around, there is this guy in a suit chasing him around, and he has an arrangement with Constance (Diane Lane) that involves sex and finding her cat (not a euphemism). The movie gets crazier with every passing minute. I threw my hands up in the air in disbelief multiple times. When the biggest shock occurred, I thought two older guys walked out on the movie – but they did return moments later, apparently choosing an odd time to use the restroom.
Serenity is a bad movie. There is no feasible explanation as to why the cast of this film took the movie. Furthermore, everyone plays it straight and seems generally committed to it. The script is stupidly ambitious…or maybe just stupid. Either way, when it is all said and done, it’s hard to hate the film, as dumb as it often feels. Serenity earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating – just for the sheer audacity of it.