Princess Kaiulani – Movie Review
WHEN YOUNG ACTRESSES EMERGE FROM TERRENCE MALICK FILMS
by Kevin Bowen
published June 18, 2010
in progressive release
never did go well for Linda Manz. The 16-year-old girl at the stem of Terrence Malick’s 1978
masterpiece Days of Heaven, she met the ill fate of many young actresses who give
performances-for-the-ages – she soon disappeared, left to glance back on her one indelible performance, certainly with pride.
other hand, Sissy Spacek used her role in Malick’s Badlands (and later Carrie) to propel a storied career. Granted she was 24 somehow playing 15 (born Christmas day, 1949) but
the acting instincts on display would later launch her path to fame.
The New World, Malick maximizes the strong eyes and dewy natural innocence of newcomer
Q’orianka Kilcher, taking her on a journey from lovestruck child to an emergence as the Mother of America. Writing last year in The
Guardian, the English critic Peter Bradshaw said The New World was “anchored by a performance
so instinctive and note-perfect by a teenage non-pro called Q'orianka Kilcher that I almost hope she never acts again.”
years, Bradshaw had his wish. Now with Princess Kaiulani , it is Kilcher’s turn at the verdict
of fate. Will she be a Manz or a Spacek?
clear that writer-director Marc Forby has seen The New World. In story structure, Princess Kaiulani recalls that film to the last ripple of
water. Amid political turmoil, the last princess of Hawaii is sent from an idyllic tropical kingdom for stodgy old England. Staying with
friends and attending a boarding school, she faces British snobbery and falls in ooey-gooey love with an Englishman. This will force an
eventual choice between her affections and her allegiance to her people.
is Hawaii during the political turmoil at the turn of the 20th Century. The Hawaiian king and queen are pawns of British and
American colonial interests. American-born landowners plot a revolt that will bring Hawaii into American possession. The fate of the Pacific is at stake.
advantage of its beautiful natural setting. (Obviously, it’s Hawaii. Just stick the camera somewhere and start rolling.) It layers its
characters in attractive, sun-dappled photography, often in twilight, presenting figures as shadows in nature.
K has noble
aspirations, playing the traditional role of historical corrective. However, it does so in a very conventional culture-clash way. Too
often, the princess and other characters break into portentous speeches. They pose and enunciate as if they know they are in a historical
reluctant to criticize a 19-year-old actress too harshly. How good were you at your job when you were 19? Would you have wanted the whole
world to watch your professional performance at that age? However, at times Kilcher simply appears to be reciting lines. While she adds a
charge to her angry moments, it’s too much too often. However, she does have a sense of photographic presence, as well as an expressive
side. All is not lost.