Saturday 18 February 2023 | Written by John Woods | Published in Opinion
Superficially at least, it left viewers feeling good, if only because of seeing and feeling the beauty of the islands in the kaleidoscope of tropical places and picturesque scenes traversed in the filming of this madcap jaunt around familiar beaches, lagoons, reefs and settings.
The rousing applause at the end of the screening in the sweltering Empire Theatre in Avarua was for this viewer as much a show of appreciation of the effort that went into the very impressive technical cinematography of Stranded Pearl as it was the relief in being able to escape the stuffy theatre with its overloaded air conditioning.
However, a real discerning evaluation of the production does not bring the viewer to entirely positive conclusions.
The obvious defects or flaws lie partly in the fictitious portrayal of the Cook Islands as a habitat for crocodiles, snakes and blood-sucking leeches and partly in exaggerated situations such as the hero’s physical encounter and fight with a shark just as big and horrific as “Jaws”.
Although a critical viewer might dismiss such misdemeanours as simply expression of artistic or poetic licence, they align more with the publicist’s excessive description of the movie as “a light hearted romantic action adventure”. One trite but highly pertinent question for the director is why have the heroine going to sea and thence to a tropical atoll wearing a skirt one would wear in an office rather than shorts or a swimsuit.
Which adds to raising the question of whether Stranded Pearl’s genre identity is confused and whether it would be better rendered as a comedy and spoof rather than a serious film struggling to deliver value and return to its funders and sponsors.
And is it too late to re-edit in order to fix the screenplay, which muddles the plot by not clearly revealing that the back story to the drama is a devious corporate scheme intending to exploit and develop this idyllic island location?
As a creative offering, however, the producer and central character of the movie, Aunanda Naidoo (Curry Munchers 2011 and Feeling Lucky 2016) does a top job and has surrounded himself by a talented cast of familiar names and faces such as Rawiri Paratene (Whale Rider), Robert Reitano, Kirsty Wright, Stan Wolfgramm and Ray Woolf, but to this reviewer the direction sometimes fail in allowing several of them to under play their parts and roles.
The next best thing Aunanda can do is to re-edit this production before it goes mainstream.