Princess Kaiulani


Mixed or average reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 17
  2. Negative: 2 out of 17

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Critic Reviews

  1. A stirring romantic drama centering on the last royal heir to the native line of traditional monarchs.
  2. 63
    Princess Kaiulani is much remembered in Hawaii, much forgotten on the mainland, and the subject of this interesting but creaky biopic.
  3. 60
    Designed to be both essential history lesson and costume weeper, Princess Kaiulani comes up short on both fronts: Deadly earnest intentions and lack of dramatic gumption ensure that the story of Hawaii’s favored daughter remains under-told.
  4. 50
    And this may be the only film in history to have someone learn about egalitarianism at a British boarding school (!). Hawaii's dismal onscreen track record continues; bring back James Michener.
  5. The film is too reverently drawn and self-consciously played to muster any real momentum.
  6. As Kaiulani's story, it falls flat, having collapsed under the weight of the genre's mushier conventions. There are too many swooping violins, too many trite generalizations, too few moments that throw a light on history and turn it into art.
  7. 50
    Over all, though, Princess Kaiulani plays like an old-fashioned, stiff but plushly upholstered costume drama, swaddled in gauzy cinematography and swelling strings.
  8. 50
    This historical drama is lovely to look at, with elegant Victorian fashions and verdant tropical scenery, but its story plays like a Hawaiian heritage lesson filtered through the melodramatic artifice of an old Hollywood costume drama.
  9. Kilcher is lovely. But sadly, Ka'iulani is a perfunctory biopic of the sort one might encounter on television during Women's History Month.
  10. 42
    While Princess Kaiulani makes do with what story it has, the film feels stretched and straining, full of sleepy scenes and pregnant pauses.
  11. As the doomed princess, Q’orianka Kilcher, who costarred as Pocahontas in Terence Malick’s “The New World,” has imperially striking features but limited acting skills. If her performances should ever rise to the level of her looks, she’ll be great.
  12. This somber but unexceptional drama is luxurious to look at but never gripping.
  13. Kilcher makes the slog worthwhile--her face gleams with possibility, even in the character’s darkest moments--though one prays she escapes the typecasting trap ASAP.
  14. So it's apropos that Forby's biggest misstep is his thin and careful script that can't carry us away on the same winds of fate that would put a sovereign republic's future in the hands of such a young woman.
  15. 40
    It's certainly one of the most beautiful costume-drama/historical-romance naps you'll ever have, but this effortlessly evocative, endlessly ennui-inducing paean to Hawaii's final princess is, ultimately, a dull, "Upstairs Downstairs" affair.
  16. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    It can’t be easy to turn the story of Hawaii’s last royal into a waxworks parade, but writer-director Marc Forby has pulled it off.
  17. 25
    The landscapes are exotic and Kilcher is erotic, but the film plays like a generic made-for-TV biopic.

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