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Movie Review: Three Wise Cousins

Deciding to go to the movies was the easy part. It is always more difficult for Linda and me to decide on which movie to see, especially when there is not a grandchild involved that limits the scope of choices.

Neither of us is into science fiction or blood and gore, so the two big movies were easily eliminated from consideration. We both like comedies, but so often what you get are a few jokes with a plot that lacks any substance. After reading reviews and watching some trailers, we decided on an indie film that was quite highly rated for both its humor, and its substance in depicting Samoan culture, titled "Three Wise Cousins."

The movie written by Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa begins in New Zealand where a young man of Samoan heritage named Adam (Neil Amituanai) falls in love with the idea of falling in love with a lady who he sees (Gloria Ofa Blake), but who does not see him. His stalking obsession to cross her path to know more about her results in him being seated a row ahead of her on a bus while she is talking to some friends about her desire to have an island guy. This makes him happy, but that happiness is short lived when she adds to that qualification "a real island guy."

Adam, who is both spoiled and doted upon by his mother, asks his parents about his heritage, and tells them he wants to go to Samoa to learn how to be an island man. His father is critical of his desire because he wants them to foot the bill, but his objection is overridden by the matriarch who finds a way to get him a ticket and some family, namely two cousins (Fesuiai Viliamu and Vito Vito), who will teach him how to be an island man.

Adam’s enthusiasm at the start of his quest is only matched by his ineptness at mastering skills ranging from simply sweeping leaves to far more difficult things like climbing coconut trees and using a machete. The more the cousins learn about Adam, the more hopeless it seems for them to succeed at teaching him Samoan culture. His failure is further compounded when they take him in his sleep to hang out with children who gather the koko their mother makes into cocoa which they take to market to sell before returning to fulfill their chores.

Recognizing his failures at mastering the art of being an island guy, coupled with overhearing his cousins debating whether or not it is worth their time to teach such a "plastic person" what Samoan culture is about, Adam leaves Samoa and returns to New Zealand having failed at his quest to return "an island man."

That, however, is not the end of the movie.

The movie is not a cinematic spectacle. There are no breathtaking scenes of suspense, no computer generated graphics, and no scenes of extreme violence to please those who might want to see those things. Despite not having those things, the film is honest and well shot. There also are no unbelievable plots, super heroic characters, nor unnecessary eroticism. It is a simple story about a simple man with a simple quest, but it is also more than that.

It is about learning a culture through the bumblings of someone who has the lineage but not the knowledge. It is about being real and not pretending. It is about coming to grips with one’s own shortcomings.

The audience at the theater, largely a Polynesian group and presumably largely Samoan, added to the experience. While I watched learning about Samoan culture, many of them were laughing in anticipation of what would happen next. They were singing along with music I was hearing for the first time. From that, I believe the movie to be true to the culture, and authentic in what came naturally to the cousins and the children that poor Adam spent his time bumbling.

Despite that the film will likely never be included on a list of classic masterpieces, I found it to be well worth the time and money to see. I would not hesitate to take my grandchildren to see it, both for its beauty and educational value, and because of its Mayberry charm set in a place totally unlike Mayberry.

Not only would I watch it again, I highly recommend it, especially for a family movie night!

Here is the trailer for the movie:

Some other things I've written about: 

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