Director: Marc Forby
Cast: Q'orianka Kilcher, Barry Pepper, Will Patton, Shaun Evans, Tamzin Merchant, Jimmy Yuill, Leo Anderson Akana
MPAA Rating: (for some violence and thematic material, and for brief language, sensuality and smoking)
Running Time: 1:37
Release Date: 5/14/10 (limited); 5/21/10 (wider)
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 20, 2010
is not the story of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. It is not the story of the life of eponymous crown princess, who
attempted to regain the control of the native monarchy. On the surface, it contains these elements of history and biography, but
they remain superficial, quickly touching upon the key historical moments and
motivations and bypassing stretches of time in the growth of its heroine to
arrive at those more important events.
exists underneath is merely the romance, both the one she has with a young man
and the narrative that turns her into a legendary figure. Here is a woman defined by the politics and ambitions of those around her
transformed into a heroic martyr for her country. The two traits exist in reality, and it's a paradox the movie cannot come
romantic view of her life, one that ends early and is spent dwelling on the past
as though well aware that all good things—specifically the sovereignty of her
homeland—will end, is effective for what it is. The problem is how much is condensed or glossed over to achieve it.
(Q'orianka Kilcher), born Victoria to her royal Hawaiian mother and Scottish
father, is second in line to the throne. Her
mother died when she was young, and her father (Jimmy Yuill) maintains a distant
relationship to her.
the kingdom begins entering the modern era (The princess throws the switch at a
ceremony to celebrate the integration of electricity in Honolulu), the business
affairs of Europe and America start to turn the tide of the state of government.
Lorrin A. Thurston (Barry Pepper) and Sanford B. Dole (Will Patton) are
two local politicians (Although as portrayed here, they seem as outsider as they
come) and businessmen, who attempt to lead a failed coup the same night.
for the princess' safety, the king (Ocean Kaowili) and her father decide
Ka'iulani's future for the moment lies in England, where she is raised by family
associates, befriends their daughter Alice (Tamzin Merchant), falls in love with
their young son Clive (Shaun Evans), and encounters brief prejudice at her
school (not because it stops but because it's observed in the single scene of
her educational environment).
between Ka'iulani's experience in England—which amounts to little more than
growing to love Clive instead of hating him—and the backroom talks and
political machinations of Thurston and Dole—which amount to little more than
devious discussions without much context—writer/director Marc Forby only
vaguely enlightens on either situation.
romance between Ka'iulani and Clive makes two points well. First, it sets up a symbolic decision for her, between the duty to her
home and the potential for what would be more socially acceptable. Second, it emphasizes her
independence. It is a sweet story (and more than likely fictional), but the dynamic
between the two, in which he recognizes the importance of her obligations to
Hawaii, ensures a certain level of maturity as well. Things turn sour, and there's a period of
separation. How he proposes their reunion and her reaction to it are the ultimate
reason for the relationship.
the overthrow of the Hawaiian government, Ka'iulani begins a tour of the United
States. Without the benefits of a
status as a foreign emissary (As there is no monarchy in power, her title as
heir to the throne means nothing), she speaks to the press (who, after a single
speech, turn from dubbing her a barbarian to being overheard saying,
"Accent says London, dress says New York, but her spirit says Hawaii"
(It is a pretty bad line)) and is granted a lunch with the First Lady. There she makes her argument to President Cleveland (Peter Banks), using
their meal and the available spices as a way to make a case against American and
an absentee participant in the direct fight for Hawaii's self-governance,
Ka'iulani's story is intrinsically passive (Even her major victory depends on
the change of conscience of one of the plotters). More intriguing is her aunt Queen Liliu'okalani (Leo Anderson Akana),
whose struggle to bring forth a new constitution that preserves the rights of
Hawaiians against the European- and American-friendly one of Thurston and Dole's
design has real conflict and tragic potential.
Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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