The two trailers that dropped ahead of Serenity’s official release may have been confusing (to say the least), but they’re nothing compared to the mind-boggling, reality-defying experience that is the actual film. Those previews would have you believe that, in the film, Anne Hathaway plays a femme fatale who enlists her ex-husband (Matthew McConaughey), who has moved to a faraway island and taken on a job as a deep-sea fishing guide since their divorce, to kill her abusive new husband (Jason Clarke). In actuality, those trailers cover approximately the first 20 minutes of the film, after which the writer and director Steven Knight steers the audience into a completely unexpected detour that’s ambitious and certainly provocative, but also very out there.
Sure, Serenity is the sexy, neo-noir thriller advertised, but it’s also surreal, and “existentialist,” as Knight noted at a special screening of the film hosted by Aviron Pictures and the Cinema Society in New York City on Wednesday—and at times just plain bizarre. Still, the plot twist has to be seen to be believed, so you’ll find no spoilers here. All that can be said, then, is that Hathaway’s Karen is a woman whose blonde hair and all-white outfits are always impeccable, despite her tortured existence; McConaughey’s Baker Dill is a rum-guzzling fisherman on a remote island, plagued by an Ahab-like obsession with an elusive tuna he calls “Justice”; and Clarke’s Frank is even more of a monster than he seems in the trailers. Rounding out the cast are Diane Lane, whose character, Constance, splits her time between hooking up with Dill and peeking out her shutters at him; Djimon Hounsou, as Dill’s put-upon first mate and the film’s voice of reason; and Jeremy Strong, as a mysterious businessman who keeps just missing Dill, despite his best efforts to get ahold of him.
At Wednesday night’s screening, which was followed by an afterparty at the Magic Hour Rooftop, Hathaway offered up a few more insights into her character: namely, the fact that playing this particular blonde was no fun at all, contrary to popular belief. “The day before I arrived in Mauritius, it was a lot of fun,” Hathaway told W of going blonde before heading to the East African island to film. “But then, once I settled into my character—who is a woman whose entire identity is controlled by her abusive husband—the fun kinda stopped.”
Fortunately, Hathaway admitted that her new ’do had a much more positive impact on her offscreen life. “I felt funnier!” she said. “I don’t know why, but I just felt that I could be funnier while saying less. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but it was just—it’s nice. And it also made me want to do it more in life, like, just mess around with [my hair] and not get too fixed on anything.”
The film’s gorgeous tropical setting probably also played a role in Hathaway’s sunny off-set outlook; she noted that offscreen activities included “a lot of barbecue, a lot of beach time.” Both McConaughey and Lane also gushed about the incredible experiences they had during their downtime in Mauritius. “We caught big fish—a 212-pound tuna,” McConaughey said of his fishing trips with Knight. “The island of Mauritius was happy to see McConaughey show up—the big guy from America who’s an actor and a movie star—but they were really respecting me when I caught the fish. That’s when they were like, ‘Ah, OK!’”
Lane added, “We made friends with people—incredibly hospitable, welcoming, excited people who embraced us on the island. It was so far from Hollywood that it wasn’t about that anymore. It was very human.”