Opens February 9, 2007, at Laemmle's Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Bl, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Movie review by Ester Molayeme.
A romantic comedy for guys, Samoan Wedding is presented from a young Polynesian perspective, covering the universal theme of love, ethnicity, and friendship.
The 30-something bachelors, Albert (Oscar Kightley), Stanley (Iaheto Ah Hi), Sefa (Shimpal Lelisi), and Michael (Robbie Magasiva) share a strong bond that prevents them from living apart from each other, and from growing up. They still act as teenagers. Each one’s attribute complements the other, and when together, they become a whole one greater being.
Very religious about their knack for partying, they hastily create chaos and ruin every wedding celebration they attend. This led the Church’s Minister and community to a final decision: the four are to be banned from the upcoming wedding of Michael’s brother, Sione (Pua Magasiva). That is, unless they find girlfriends to take to the wedding.
Living in Auckland, New Zealand, the city with the largest Polynesian population in the world, should make it easy for the four young and handsome Polynesians to find a girl. But,
what a challenging task that proves to be!
Good acting keeps the momentum without a dull moment.
Distinctly unique in mannerism and appearance, the four likeable characters display great chemistry and appear to truly have lots of fun together. Realistically portrayed, Albert, Michael, Sefa, and Stanley, are the guys everybody knows and can easily identify with, and each character gets proper screen time.
Standing out is Robbie Magasiva’s solid portrayal of Michael, the tall, dark, and handsome Casanova, always looking good, and who genuinely prides himself of being irresistible to women. It is Michael’s radiating studliness that makes the other three guys feel like they are also ‘the man’.
Oscar Kightley’s character is the most sensible of the four. As Albert, he is a serious, good, ‘mama’s’ boy, holding a responsible admirable job. Albert honors his mother, and relates to others with respect. However, when it comes to drinking and women, he is the most inexperienced of the four.
Sefa (Shimpal Lelisi): is the party boy extraordinaire, who everyone wants to have a drink with, any time, any place. Being easygoing puts a strain on his relationship with girlfriend Leyland (Teuila Blakely), the love of his life who, with long needed lifestyle changes, requires Sefa to make a sincere and ‘mature’ commitment.
Iaheto Ah Hi effectively adds a sense of mystery and weirdness to his role of Stanley, the naïve, innocent, optimist, and wide-eyed dreamer, afflicted by a wicked imagination. Fascinated with phone chat lines, Stanley uses the alias Tyreeq to meet women. Most captivating to him is Latifah, his imagined television music-video model, who he truly believes that he will very soon find.
Notwithstanding the movie’s emphasis on male mates, says Madeleine Sami, “there are elements for chicks as well.”
Sami delivers a superb performance as Tania, Albert’s shy office colleague, engaged in a slow moving romance, and afraid to show her true feelings towards Albert. Sami explains that Tania, is “hesitant to make the first move. In the end she’s hinting quite heavily but Albert’s quite slow on the uptake, to say the least.”
Samoan Wedding is the first acting role for the former Miss Samoa, Maryjane Mckibbin-Schwenke, as the gorgeous Princess. Albert’s mother imported Princess from the island as a match for her son. Albert immediately falls for the beautiful Princess who displays an overt interest for his buddy, Michael.
Very well portrayed are the boys’ different and balanced characteristics. Actor and co-writer, Oscar Kightley, explains that the characters shared closeness, leads them to experience life as a group “rather than becoming well rounded individuals.” Faced with a new task, made them realize that their actions have an impact on others and enabled them to grow up.
Great performances are delivered by David Fane, in the role of Sefa’s cousin Bolo aka Paul, by Pua Magasiva (the real life brother of cast mate Robbie Magasiva) as Sione, David Van Horn as Derek aka D-Rizzle, and Nathaniel Lees as the Minister.
Screenplay by James Griffin and Oscar Kightley make for
a direct dialogue and off-guard humor. We come to know these characters intimately through their boyish talk.
The Best Cinematographer 2003 New Zealand Film Award, Aaron Morton, uses shots at particular angles that accentuate the personal tone to the feature.
Music by Andy Morton, New Zealand’s most prolific DJ, keeps the party spirit going.
Samoan Wedding is the first feature film debut for Chris Graham, an award winning short film and music video director. Through brilliant razor-sharp Pacific humor, Graham touches on the immigrant experience, emphasizing the Polynesian close knit community and their familial warmth. The film comes close to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, in that we see the older Polynesian generation holding to traditional values. In addition, it is similar to the Wedding Crashers in its free and adventurous lifestyle, as the younger generation moves towards assimilation breaking socio-cultural stereotypes.
Samoan Wedding however keeps its own cheerful twist, with good energy, and laughter. Guys, this movie is for you!