One of the best Norwegian films made in many years, “Hawaii, Oslo” proves it’s still possible to do exciting work in the sub-genre created by such exceptional pictures as “Short Cuts” and “Magnolia.” The story of a bunch of people inter-connecting during a night in Oslo is set to become a box office hit on its home turf, with successful fest exposure and international sales looming.
A man running desperately through the Oslo night is pursued by another man on a bicycle. An ambulance comes charging through the darkness, carrying a young couple with a sick child. The ambulance passes a couple standing on the sidewalk. Suddenly, there is an accident. As people gather around site, the narration goes back to the day before, and to the events that have led to this unfortunate gathering of people who previously did not know each other.
Vidar (Trond Espen Seim) works as an orderly at an asylum. One of the inmates is Leon (Jan Gunnar Roise), a kleptomaniac. Leon is waiting for Asa (Evy Kasseth Rosten), a childhood sweetheart. Ten years earlier, they agreed to meet on this day to decide if they want to get married. This old promise is all that’s been on Leon’s mind. Also mindful of the promise, Asa is traveling to Oslo to keep the appointment.
Leon’s prison inmate brother Trygve (Aksel Hennie) is granted leave to celebrate his brother’s birthday, but has plans to use the few hours of freedom to commit more crimes. His dream is to escape to Hawaii. (Pic’s title also stems from an Oslo bar named Hawaii, where Leon and Asa are supposed to meet.)
Frode (Stig Henrik Hoff) and Milla (Silje Torp Faerevaag) need to get their sick child to the U.S. for an expensive operation. The grief-stricken parents desperately try to get money, but to no avail. It seems their child is doomed.
During the course of the day these people, plus suicidal ex-celeb Bobbie-Pop (Petronella Barker), connect culminating in the accident, and a truly out-of-this-world final shot.
Helmer Erik Poppe made his debut in 1998 with “Schpaaa,” a realistic and tragic story of young boys turning to crime on the seedy side of Oslo. This sophomore effort reveals him as a cinematic poet, creating a film full of both haunting and beautiful images where everything might not be as real as it seems.
After numerous “Short Cuts” and “Magnolia” wannabes, “Hawaii, Oslo” feels fresh and invigorating. Characters are interesting, pace is fast without being forced, and the outcome is satisfactory (even if some developments are somewhat predictable). Lenser Ulf Brantas (a Swede who shot Lukas Moodysson’s first three features) has created moody, somewhat stylized image of Oslo by night. All other tech credits are above par and actors are fine.