After the admittedly delightful experience of watching the critical dud “Serenity,” we were left with a number of questions: Why were there so many fishing puns in the script? What accent was Anne Hathaway’s horrible husband trying to do? Why was Matthew McConaughey’s butt featured so prominently?
But most importantly, why did two Academy Award winners agree to star in this?
Critics aren’t the only ones questioning the film’s merits. In response to a report that Hathaway, McConaughey and director Steven Knight were upset with Aviron Pictures for pretty much giving up on marketing “Serenity,” the independent distributor issued a statement to Deadline blaming the lack of promotion on poor reviews and box office numbers — a bold move, given that companies typically stay mum on such matters. (The distributor had previously bumped the film from an award-season release date to January, a known “dump month.”)
“As much as we love this film and still hope it finds its audience, we tested and retested the film — with audiences and critics alike — and sadly, the data demonstrated that the film was not going to be able to perform at our initial expectations, so we adjusted our budget and marketing tactics accordingly,” Aviron stated, adding that it would not have made “prudent business sense” to pour more money into a project that received a 23 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a D+ CinemaScore.
“Serenity,” which is billed as a neo-noir thriller, follows fishing boat captain Baker Dill (McConaughey) as he hunts a single elusive tuna off a Caribbean-esque island called Plymouth. He lives alone and drinks rum straight from a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug, which is how you know he has family issues. And lo! Here struts Karen (Hathaway), Baker’s ex-wife and the mother of his son, who asks the captain if he will take her abusive husband (Jason Clarke) out fishing and throw him overboard. (This takes some sexy convincing, naturally.) The movie also contains one of the most insane plot twists of the past year — take that, M. Night Shyamalan! — but we won’t ruin the surprise.
One critic referred to the movie as two different movies “oddly pressed together, like a grilled roach and cheese sandwich.” Another noted that the stars “share a mesmerizing anti-chemistry, not only implausible as lovers but as occupants of the same dimension.” Hathaway swallowed all this criticism and wrote on Instagram that there is “no failure, only learned events, not everyone has to like everything, and the critical response doesn’t change my feelings about the movie.”
Deadline wrote that McConaughey specifically “is breathing fire over feeling like he was duped.” Aviron had reportedly denied his request to roll the film out slowly.
According to the outlet’s sources, Hathaway and McConaughey had agreed to a full campaign “including a junket and as many late-night and daytime talk shows as would have them” when Aviron agreed to promotion and advertising “commensurate with a 2500-screen release.” While the stars held up their end of the bargain, the article states that Aviron executives admitted there would be no such spending for the film, right before the actors hopped on a plane to the Los Angeles press junket. (Representatives for Hathaway, McConaughey and Knight have not returned The Washington Post’s requests for comment.)
“Serenity” made just $4.4 million its opening weekend, and, as Aviron noted in its statement, it’s “next to impossible for an adult-skewing drama” to overcome such terrible reviews. But worry not! The film, which feels more like a comedy than a thriller, could quite possibly age into the perfect midnight movie.