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Princess Kaiulani (2009)
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10 from 1,129 votes
Release: 14 May 2010 (USA) /

Princess Kaiulani (2009)

Genre: Drama
Director: Marc Forby,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Inspired by true events. Princess Ka'iulani is the daughter of a Hawaiian princess and a Scottish businessman. As a teenager, she is sent to England to be educated, but after the death of her uncle King Kalakaua and the accession of her aunt Queen Liliu'okalani, Ka'iulani becomes the next heir to the throne. The possibility of U.S. annexation is looming and the rights of her people are threatened. Ka'iulani is torn between life in England with handsome young suitor Clive Davies or returning to her beloved Hawai'i. Written by L. Hamre

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Critic Reviews


Q'Orianka Kilcher plays Princess Kaiulani, in a true story about one of the last heirs to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The film follows Kailulani's life, starting with her early, happy life in Honolulu, then, her education at Victorian England after the imposition of the Bayonet Constitution, which stripped Hawaiian monarchy of much of its authority. When Hawaii is soon overthrown, she returns to Hawaii in her campaign to convince the U.S. to reverse the overthrow.

This adaptation of Princess Kaiulani's life probably should've been quite good. It is a fascinating part of Hawaiian history that many are unfamiliar with. It was unfortunate, therefore, that the film spent much of its time on the less historical, but more mundane aspects of Princess Kaiulani's life.

Q'Orianka Kilcher's performance brings a relatable, somewhat spunky, every-girl aspect to her princess character. With that said, the script, sadly, doesn't fully flesh her out as I hoped. Many scenes in her life feel just tacked on to evoke sympathy, but no real texture or subtlety. For example, all the scenes with her prized seashell collection, which one would think will play a big part later, isn't really brought up again to any real significance. The supporting characters don't fair any better. Kaiulani's close friend Alice (Tamzin Merchant) is two-dimensional, and is allowed only to look deeply concerned and appears merely to suit Kaiulani's needs in the plot. I had no idea what benefit Alice gets from being Kaiulani's friend. Miss Barnes (Catherine Steadman), one of the heads of the school, comes off as just a generic, mean lady that audiences can hiss at. Kaiulani's initial relationship with one of the servant boys, which appeared significant at first, doesn't turn into anything beyond a small scene later. Admittedly, Jimmy Yuill is memorable as Kaiulani's Scottish father, Archie, who appears to be Kaiulani's biggest supporter and perhaps the biggest motivator for her to want to help her people. I also liked all the scenes involving King Kalakaua (Ocean Kaowili), a charismatic and somewhat tragic character, certainly.

I felt too much time was spent on Kaiulani and Clive's (Shaun Evans) romance, which felt generic, if not unnatural, given the fact that they were supposed to dislike each other. I must've seen this scene many times--the girl accidentally falls on the guy from the bicycle, both tumble onto the grass, and they fall in love with picturesque green hills in the background. In contrast, the kissing scenes are rather sensuous, even if the romance is on the bland side. However, things do get more interesting when Kaiulani has to pick between the plights of her people and a possible marriage to Clive.

The film shines when the subject of politics is involved. A dinner conversation scene with Kaiulani and President Cleveland (Peter Banks) using food as a way to talk politics is clever and effective. A scene where Kaiulani gives her first speech shows that she does have her flaws, and allows us to really root for her character. There's also a war scene that bring a bit of harsh reality to the situation in Hawaii. All the scenes that relate to history are the best scenes. In addition, the period sets and costumes are excellent in this film and really bring out the Victorian time period. It would've been nice to see more on how a Hawaiian monarchy functions, but what is shown is still interesting.

Despite initial pacing issues, the film picks up as we get to know Kaiulani as her people know her today—a shrewd politician. Where did she develop this skill? Somewhere during her Victorian England education, I think (although we never saw her study). Princess Kaiulani certainly is a great subject for a film. This film did make me want to know more about her, the politics of the time, and the general history of Hawaii. Perhaps that was the intention. If one were to look her up on Wikipedia, one will find many significant events in her life that were not in this film, which would've been great to see. Perhaps we'll see a film like that one day. As it is, this film is still a good light intro to a fascinating individual. ** ½ out of **** stars.

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