It has already been noted about earlier movies that treat the non-Polynesian population of Hawaii that the stories are generally grim and discouraging. Indeed, there is no movie I can find that expresses the “Aloha Spirit” from the Hawaiian point of view.
George Clooney heads the cast of this dissection of contemporary Hawaiian society. A connection to the land and people of Hawaii is made through Clooney’s ancestral lineage reaching back to island royalty. The social and emotional landscape of this film, however, is firmly located in affluent American realities. Clooney’s wife has been injured in a boating accident off of Waikiki and is near death. He has two daughters, aged 10 and 17, who are foul-mouthed and disrespectful – as we have come to expect in most portrayals of the modern family. Clooney learns from the older daughter that his wife had been cheating on him. He and his daughters along with a stupid kid who is the daughter’s casual boyfriend, go off to Kauai following the elusive trail of the wife’s lover. There is a subplot involving the sale of a large land trust owned by Clooney’s family. The land happens to be on Kauai and it will be discovered that the lover is peripherally involved in the real estate deal. In the end, there are tearful goodbyes to the wife and mother. The lover does not come to the hospital but his wife does. Speaking for myself, there was very little emotional tug in the formulaic ending because it was so hard to care very much for these people. At a deeper level, there is a sense that we are looking at a profoundly alienated society and that the liberal use of the iconic f-word is the signal for the proliferation of this phenomenon. It is a symptomatic experience to watch a wife and mother die in the presence of her family and not feel compassion. Clooney decides in the eleventh hour to protect the Kauai land from the developers.