Friday, August 29, 2008

"Hawaii" (1966, Dir: George Roy Hill)

I had more fun with "Hawaii" than I thought I would. The film is so ridiculous at times that you can't help but laugh at it - the first hour is utterly weird and wacky in the most awkward way possible, provided lots of uneasy chuckles. I don't know how much of this humor was intentional, however, and the idea that the filmmakers may have been being absolutely serious really frightens me.

The next two hours drag interminably. The direction doesn't engage and the writing is too blunt in its approach - Malama is supposed to be a symbol of the "innate goodness" of the Hawaiian culture pre-conversion, but her role is completely corny. The role of Jerusha is the best one, as it provides Julie Andrews with a real chance to add shading to the character, which she does. She's not great, but it's one of the best performances in the film.

Max von Sydow is OTT in the worst ways possible here. His character is so repulsive that it makes the end-of-film turnaround completely ridiculous both in its execution and its expectations of the audience (compare it to the loathsomely sanctimonious ending of "Breaking the Waves", one of my least favorite films ever). He doesn't play the "good" Hale as the "bad" Hale changed, he plays him as a completely different character. It needed to be shown that "bad" Hale had the "good" Hale in him all along, and von Sydow's performance isn't sharp enough to maneuver the character's intents, purposes and turmoils with grace. His performance is overwrought enough to provide us with some cheap laughs, but it's disappointing acting considering it came from such a great actor.

Richard Harris is dashing and charismatic, but his role is just as noxious as von Sydow's. Jocelyn LaGarde gives a remarkable, earthy charisma to her character, but her story arc is played for laughs when it shouldn't have been. Manu Tupou and Lou Antonio are quite good in small roles.

The scenery is nice, but the story is horribly botched. Only watch this as a curio, or just watch the first hour for some laughs at the film's expense.

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