Hawaii is based on the classic novel by James Michener (Texas and South Pacific) and is directed by George Roy Hill (Slapshot and The Sting). The film was originally released in 1966 and was, for the time, a large-scale production. The film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards but it won none. It is an interesting historical look at the introduction of white men into native populations. One does, however, have to look past the ethnocentric portrayal of the Hawaiian natives and the sexist portrayal of women in order to even be able to enjoy this movie. Also director Hill's sharp editing from scene to scene was meant to create tension, but today it makes the film seem a little dated. The film is also a little long and sometimes drags as a result; it is almost 3 hours long. Some of the highlights of the film include whenever Julie Andrews sings and the small role by Gene Hackman.
The film begins in the early 19th century in the United States with Brother Abner Hale (Max Von Sydow – Dune and Minority Report) being granted the right to be a missionary in Hawaii. He is told to find a wife before he goes over. Hale meets Jerusha Bromley (Julie Andrews) and his awkward ways win her over. They are married. Hale and Jerusha set sail for Hawaii. It is obvious from the beginning that it is going to take awhile for the two cultures to get used to each other. Jerusha begins to give English lessons to Queen Malama (Jocelyne LaGarde). Hale is much less understanding of the Hawaiians than Jerusha. Jerusha becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby boy. She then meets Rafer (Richard Harris – Patriot Games and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), a sailor who she had been in love with. Rafer kisses Jerusha and offers to take her back to Boston. Jerusha refuses saying that she is married. Jerusha then gets pregnant again and has a baby girl. In the years that follow Jerusha starts to get weaker and weaker. There is an outbreak of measles in the village and all the natives get sick. Disease that the white man has brought to Hawaii has reduced the native population from 400,000 to 150,000. Hale does not know what to do, but he knows that he does not want to give up his parish in Hawaii and return to the United States.