Princess Kaiulani

Q’orianka Kilcher, last seen in widescreen as Pocahontas in Terrence Malick’s The New World, apparently has developed a specialty portraying majestic indigenous nymphs who galvanize discordant formative moments in American history. At this she’s a natural, and a seducer of any camera, even if first-time writer-director Marc Forby obviously is no Terrence Malick. Forby’s historically fanciful and dramatically doltish biopic casts Kilcher as the British-educated princess who saw her native Hawaiian homeland through its turbulent American annexation in the late 1880s, only to die at age 23 from “a broken heart at the loss of her country.” It’s a work of warmth, gentility, ravishing portraiture and risible storytelling, so cluttered up with contrived bits of business that you begin to pity all involved. Both in the script and on the set, Forby seems at a loss for what to tell his actors, whose ranks also include Barry Pepper, Will Patton and Shaun Evans doing their best with watery supporting roles. But at least you know what Kaiulani means when she says, “It just bothers me to sit here like some ornament.”