Haven Movie Review

The island of Grand Cayman is truly breathtaking, and the new drama Haven wastes no time in showing off the tucked-away coves of white, sandy beaches and crystal blue waters of its setting. It's too bad that it doesn't stick to pining after the picturesque, and instead goes for a lackluster and muddled portrayal of island social strife and petty melodramas.

Haven is told using the intersecting tales of numerous characters that is so popular with the ambitious, film school-groomed set who have seen Rashomon a few too many times. In one narrative strain, there's the jovial American businessman (Bill Paxton) who wants to give up his shady practices and go straight; his pretty princess daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner), still fresh from her 18th birthday; his foul-mouthed attorney, Allen (Stephen Dillane), tired of making money for other people; Allen's scantily-clad, put-upon secretary (Joy Bryant); and a sleazy local small-time hood who takes a shine to Pippa and decides to introduce her to the local drug scene. Almost entirely unconnected is Shy (Orlando Bloom), an easygoing local fisherman who has to keep his love affair with young Angela (Zoe Saldana) a secret from her wealthy, domineering father and her violent thug of a brother (Anthony Mackie).

Seem confusing? It's probably because what the characters lack in originality or complexity, they make up for in sheer numbers. Instead of several tales that ultimately tie together in some way, we basically get two sprawling narratives that take place at the same locations, at the same time, but almost entirely by coincidence and without much connection between them.

It is not inherently a problem to present a snapshot of the unrest in one idyllic locale without tying a neat bow at the end, but writer/director Frank E. Flowers is way too enamored with his sprawling stories and the tenuous ways the narrative strains meet one another. He loves to repeatedly show the crossovers from story to story, and he lauds these points of contact as though they are grand reveals of some fascinating secret, but they... aren't. When a character from the first tale crosses paths with a character from the second vomiting, this really isn't a mystery I want to dig around in. Or see more than once.

What's more, this shuffling of characters is in lieu of actual individual development. We get no idea what makes the rich boy pine to be a gangbanger, what makes the cop take such an interest in one young man's choices, or what ultimately happens at the end, but we see Pippa walk into a party multiple times. I can only assume the stellar cast signed on to Haven for the shooting schedule on Grand Cayman, because they certainly were no swayed by the meaty parts.

Additionally, Flowers, a Cayman native, presumes an understanding of social tensions on the island that I, frankly, do not have. I can suppose a level of local/expat/tourist resentment, but the local-on-local cultural animosity is beyond my knowledge. Why is it so violently criminal that Shy and Angela want to be together - because she is rich, and he isn't? She is black, and he isn't? Something else entirely? The entire social hierarchy - potentially very interesting - is just a backdrop for a trite Romeo and Juliet redux, though, and an incomplete one at that.

Ultimately, the characters, the narrative convolutions, and the flashy cinematic artistry - another ambitions film student signpost - never raise Haven above the mediocre. After all, you can show, again and again, the marvel of Shy bumping into Pippa's world, but no matter how you spin it, it's still just one actor walking by another. Woo hoo.

The DVD includes a making-of featurette.

Red Stripe and fries: It's what's for dinner.

Cast & Crew

Director : Frank E. Flowers

Producer : , Robbie Brenner

Comments

Haven Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, 2004

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