Filmed in the Czech Republic by cinematographer Morten Søborg, who's worked with Bier before, Serena does look downright sumptuous. Cooper and Lawrence conduct their characters' romance/destructive spiral in the middle of some stunning landscapes, dressed in all sorts of period finery, with Lawrence getting a particularly lovely array of bias-cut dresses and silk blouses. Søborg's notably good at shooting the pair in the low light of their home, where they glow in the dim historical lighting as they exchange lines like, "Everything’s going to be all right. We’re going to forget about everything but each other."
But as good as they look, Cooper and Lawrence both seem befuddled by their roles; neither they nor the movie have a sense of what their narrative is. Cooper, using an accent that slips all over the place, never acts like the relentless businessman everyone treats him as. He falls in love with Serena abruptly, introducing himself and then saying, "I think we should be married," and he develops an interest in his castoff child just as suddenly. The characters are too opaque for their love story to even cohere. Serena is the rare film in which Lawrence, who's usually so astonishingly sure-footed, looks lost and out of place, her performance defined by a lot of mysterious, heated staring. It's an odd misfire from two actors at the peak of their game, but a misfire nonetheless.