Q'orianka Kilcher has a planar face and poised carriage that suggest her innate nobility. The actress, whose own heritage is Peruvian and German, memorably played Pocahontas in The New World.
With Princess Ka'iulani, about the people of Hawaii's last hope against eventual U.S. annexation, the actress seems destined to portray forthright heroines who bridge indigenous and colonial cultures.
Kilcher is lovely. But sadly, Ka'iulani is a perfunctory biopic of the sort one might encounter on television during Women's History Month.
The film hops from incident to incident, emphasizing the princess' education in Victorian England, at the expense of making clear the European and American business interests that unseated the Hawaiian royals.
Next to Kilcher's commanding and multidimensional presence, the conniving Americans (Barry Pepper as Lorrin Thurston, agitator for Hawaii's American statehood, and Will Patton as his confederate Sanford Dole, cousin of the pineapple magnate) look like paper dolls.
Marc Forby wrote the screenplay and makes his directorial debut with this girl-power story contrasting the shell-strewn coastline of Oahu with the manicured lawns of England's stately homes.
Except for the scenery and Kilcher, the first two-thirds of this 130-minute film are a yawn. Belatedly, it stirs when Ka'iulani leaves England for America and gently lobbies President Grover Cleveland to extend American democracy to the newly annexed island kingdom.EndText