Younger film lovers may not believe that, once upon a time, art house films took risks, made aesthetic leaps, and challenged our minds. But not lately; small independent films like The City of Your Final Destination turn large themes dinky with dullard cinematography, while everybody keenly waits for big-budget films like Inception to push the film frontiers. Case in point: Princess Kailuani, an indie labor of love, an examination of the bastardly imperialistic ruination of Hawaii by American dog capitalists. But it looks more like a Hallmark Hall of Fame feature than an anatomy of cultural rape.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Hallmark. But this story of a Hawaiian princess whose brief reign followed Hawaii’s loss of independence, starring the exquisitely beautiful Peruvian-Swiss actress Q’urianka Pilcher, cries out for a more passionate approach. Instead, the sex (heated smooching scenes) and violence (bloodless battles in grassy fields) are so subdued you might imagine the film was made by Walt Disney. What we need here is Werner Herzog.
Instead we get first-time director Marc Forby, a television producer whose production offers beauty on a budget. A few fields and beaches stand for Hawaii, and a couple of big rooms equal England. Occasionally, there are moments where the low-key style suits the subject. When Princess K returns from exile in England, she decides to fight for voter suffrage during a dinner conversation. It’s the most dramatic scene in the film. It’s good, but not exactly a revolutionary moment for either history or cinema.