Based on the novel by Ron Rash, Susanne Bier (‘Love is All You Need‘) directs a tale of corruption, tragic love, and jealousy on a timber yard in the Smoky Mountains (though it was actually predominantly filmed in the Czech Republic) of North Carolina in the 1930’s. Bradley Cooper runs the yard, against the protestations of various environmentalists, and one day happens upon the inimitably beautiful Jennifer Lawrence, whom he decides should immediately become his bride. She lost her family under tragic circumstance so decides why not, but she soon proves a force to reckon with in the business world and it’s not long before various feathers are more than ruffled.
Initially there seems to be precious little point to the film as it dawdles along with nothing really happening – in fact, it’s only when Lawrence appears that the very force of her own personality as well as that of her character make it more interesting. The acting from her companions is equally strong, in particular perhaps Rhys Ifans (and not for the first time it took me a little while to be certain it was actually him – I managed to watch the whole of ‘Anonymous’ 11 without identifying him he was that good in it) and the human tragedy level continues to painfully rise amongst the austere, barren and rather isolated backdrop of the wintry logging site. The costumes and sets are up to scratch with the performances but sadly it is the basic story and its execution that undo all the other good work on display, turning the story into melodramatic mulch and effectively ruining the whole film. Marks the third release after ‘Silver Linings Playbook‘ and ‘American Hustle‘ to have Cooper and Lawrence working together, indeed it was reportedly the leading lady herself that sent Cooper the script for this, for which I am sure he is eternally grateful.