|Found In Hawaii|
GENRE: Fish Out Of Water Comedy Drama.
STATUS: Script written.
LOGLINE: Four men from Beijing, China, fulfill a dying man’s last wish by traveling to Hawaii to attempt finding his long lost love with only an old faded photograph to go on and the woman’s first name.
COMPANY NOTES: This story concept evolved through business contacts made by Jon Brekke while traveling to Hong Kong and Beijing for the prospect of securing business ties. Associates there suggested a movie where men from China go on a road trip for some purpose akin to the immensely popular “Lost In Thailand.” Eric Nemoto then wrote the script for this project, which remains open for potential investor interest.
We see a beautiful woman in a video from the website “Hawaiian Virtual Vacations.” Its viewer, Huang Min, a para-legal from Beijing, China (photo below), spends his idle time dreaming of Hawaii and reading up on Chinese astrology. Outside on the Beijing streets, Min’s boss, attorney Zhao Wei, walks back to his home office. Hearing the door open and shut Min reacts by hurriedly closing down a number of opened windows on his computer. Wei steps into the room and takes Min’s mouse and checks the history of the sites he’s visited. He gives Min a look before leaving with his packaged food and newspaper. Min follows him to another room and tells him of a number of inconsequential messages but then says, “And Mr. Wang called. He wants his will done.” Wei questions Min if he’s sure. Min replies yes, why? “Because I’ve only been telling him to have his will done for 30 years.” Wei jokes, “He must be dying.” Min responds, “Yes, he is.” In the hospital we meet Wang Fang, 95, who is nearing the end of his life. As Wei and Min prepare his papers, Fang turns sentimental. He asks Wei if he has ever been in love? He exclaims, “Love is related to all things! Without love we are nothing!” Because he has no one else, Fang asks Wei to be his executor. Wei agrees and asks who will he leave his estate to? Fang points to the bedside table drawer. Wei opens it and finds an old photo of a woman and a man. From the similarities we know the man is Fang. But the woman we do not know. On the back Wei reads, “Fang, I will wait for you! Love Always, Li” “Li,” Wei says to himself, and then looks up, “Li who?” But Fang has fallen asleep.
Wei tells Min that they will need two people to witness Fang sign his will. So Min recruits his friend, Chen Deshi, who still lives with his mother, to be a witness. Deshi agrees. They talk of the Hawaii site that Min told him about. Deshi dreams of Hawaii too. Wei has a drink at his usual place at the bar. He gets the owner/bartender, Song Hui, a man burnt out at running his business, to agree to be the other witness. Through their discussion we learn of Wei’s penchant for order and how that might have ruined his marriage and how he and his wife could get back together. “What? That’s ridiculous! I loathe the ground she walks on and she would sooner cut her own throat!” But Hui brings up the point that after 20 years he still lives a few blocks from her and she has never remarried. “Pride,” Hui philosophizes, “What Buddha says is one of the worst of our earthly desires.” Wei finishes his drink, thanks Hui for the advice he didn’t ask for, and says he’ll see him tomorrow. On the way home he stops to in fact look at a house he used to live in with his ex-wife and where she continues to reside still.
At the hospital the next day, Wei is joined by Min, Deshi, and Hui and has all the papers organized again. Of course, Fang pays little attention to the tasks at hand and asks everyone if they have ever been to Hawaii. No one has. Fang turns sad. He starts repeating over and over again, “I went to Hawaii once. Long time ago. I should have stayed there.” To boost his spirits Min instinctively interrupts Fang. “I go to Hawaii every day!” He takes out his iPad and shows Fang the “Hawaiian Virtual Vacations” site. Fang is mesmerized. His interest is piqued by the video where the Woman talks about a number of iconic Hawaiian tourist destinations. Min notices Fang’s attraction to this. Wei sighs. His penchant for timely efficiency is not on the agenda tonight. As Fang utters, “Li… Li…,” Wei holds the photo up and asks “This person?” Fang nods. Wei looks to Hui and Deshi and they nod their acknowledgement. In his apparent delusion, Fang tells Wei and the rest to use portions of his money to find Li. Wei cringes at the thought, but Min and Deshi trade looks and perk up. Fang turns to Min and tells him that they are to go on all the mini-vacations depicted on the “Virtual Vacations” website and by doing this they will find Li. While Min enthusiastically responds, Wei becomes very upset. He scolds Min for wanting to take advantage of a delusional man. But Fang responds angrily that he is not crazy, that for the first time in his life everything is clear. Fang looks hard at each man and forces them to “promise” to go to Hawaii and go on those tours. Even Wei is forced to agree if for no other reason that it will finally get Fang to sign, which he finally does. Wei then proceeds to again press Fang for Li’s last name. Fang, seeing another time, can only repeatedly respond by saying “Li… Li… Li….” Upon hearing Hui’s opinion that maybe the old man doesn’t remember the woman’s last name, Wei decides to have Fang sign and initial the documents as is, after which he continues to press for Li’s last name, “Mr. Wang, I need her LAST name!” But by now old Fang can only respond with short blurbs of information – “met her in Hawaii,” “summer vacation while in college,” “meant to return,” “parents forced me to marry someone else,” “should have never left,” “so sorry, so sorry, Li,” “love is the only thing…” – until he quietly passes away. The men stand stunned.
The men commiserate at Hui’s bar after hours. Each affected by what happened, they talk about life, the irony of death, and the sadness of a man with all his money but no one to share it with in the end. Wei finishes his drink and says, “Well, that’s that.” His departure is halted when the other men speak of going to Hawaii. This idea is incredulous to Wei and he contends the others just want a free vacation charged to a dead man’s legacy. The rest defend themselves vehemently – they all made a “promise!” “Even so,” Wei argues, “We have no way of finding this woman and the fact is she has probably long since died!” Min says, “There was something odd about how he wanted us to go on those vacations and how it will lead us to Li.” “Yes,” Wei says, “That is because he was crazy!” But Wei’s rationality is met with unwavering commitment. He shakes his head; for in his mind they will embark on the most absurd adventure imaginable. They toast to “Finding Li,” and Wei has to reluctantly raise his glass. Walking home and alone in his thoughts, Wei stops again at the house that brings back memories. The light on the second floor is still on. Wei looks down sadly and moves on. In the days and weeks that follow the men research Fang’s past. Wei and Min are allowed into Fang’s apartment at the senior center and they look through his possessions. Deshi pours through documents at the archives of the library. Hui visits a number of prior residences where Fang lived. They find nothing on “Li.” The photo and the inscription, remains all they have to go on.
A Hawaiian Airlines jet cruises above 30,000 feet. A series of shots show the men landing at the airport, getting their bags, traveling via shuttle towards Waikiki, checking into the magnificent Royal Hawaiian Hotel (photo at right), all the while sporting “kids in the candy store” expressions, except for Wei, who’s focused on the business of tracking down the mysterious “Li”. The men, now decked in Aloha shirts and comfortable pants, decide the best place to start is to visit the “Hawaiian Vacations” office itself in the heart of Waikiki. There, they meet Mei Ling, who knows Mandarin and listens to their specific request. Min explains that something on the video on their website – which featured the sites of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, Haleakala Crater Lookout on Maui, and the Na Pali Coast Cliffs on Kauai – had something to do with Fang’s emotional outburst, and so he feels if they visit these sites, they will get a sign that will lead them to “Li.” Mei Ling books them on an inter-island boat cruise which will enable them to visit each of those sites on one trip. Of course the four men are a composite of different personalities almost certainly headed for trouble. Wei is the skeptic, the man who thinks Fang’s dying words were nothing more than the last brain activity popping in the head of a feeble old man. Min is the true believer. The one who looks for meaning in everything around him, who is certain that somehow the path to “Li” will be unveiled to them during their visits to these destinations. Deshi is the goofy kid in the candy store. The mama’s boy who has never been outside of Beijing let alone to exotic Hawaii and takes photos at every turn. And Hui is the consoling philosopher, the mediator who tries to shake Wei from his pessimism, keep Min from getting his hopes up too high, and to advise both to let Deshi be Deshi. But in spite of their potential incompatibility, the plan seems simple enough. Visit the sites that Fang saw on the video and see if anything happens. What could be more simple than that?
Of course it seems too easy to be true. And it is. This neatly planned one week outing will turn disastrous at every turn. An evening of overnight drinking for Min and Deshi has them oversleeping and causes the group to miss their boat’s departure. Mei Ling therefore has to schedule a flight for them to catch up with the cruise when it docks on the Big Island. The plane ride actually gets them to the island ahead of the ship and rather than wait and then book a day trip to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (photo at left), they decide (with Wei dissenting) to use their rent-a-car and drive straight to the park itself. While there, the group does a typical tourist no-no. They collect lava rocks as souvenirs, something Hawaiian legend states is fraught with bad “Mana.” Then while visiting one portion of the park, Hui ventures behind a tree to relieve himself and is stung on his private areas by red ants. It causes his private part to swell up to porn star standards. Compounding this, due to the bad luck caused by the collecting of the rocks, the rent-a-car mysteriously can’t start, their cell phones are dead, and absolutely no one happens to drive by. As Hui wails in agony, Wei and Min run into the forest and find some mud. They rush back and dump it on Hui’s privates, finally bringing him relief. Of course, they are still stuck in the middle of nowhere. As light turns to night a police officer finally drives by and finds them. He hands his cell over to Min. It is Mei Ling, who followed up on finding them when the cruise notified her that they never boarded the ship. Understanding local legend, she tells Min to have everyone take their rocks from the car and return it to the land. They do so and their cells and the car magically start back up.
Of course, their ship has departed port again and Mei Ling has to book them another flight, which now has them flying from the Big Island to Maui to again meet up with the cruise. In the morning, they do take in the magnificent sunrise from atop majestic Haleakala Crater (photo at right) and then see other sights. As they have hours before the ship again leaves port, they are advised by Mei Ling via Min’s cell phone on speaker mode, to pick up some Japanese Manju (pastry). As they munch on this confection outside of a bakery, Min notices an antique store across the street. He and Deshi go and visit it. Inside, an old Chinese proprietor who could pass as a snake oil salesman, shows them everything from antique furniture to bargain watches. Of all the items there, Deshi shows interest in one of the most curious, a high school senior’s science project – a replica of Marconi’s first wireless radio. Later, as the men finally seem ready to board the ship and make their way through the tight security, Deshi’s just purchased Marconi replica, with a wristwatch strap taped to it (done by the proprietor for safety during travel) is mistakenly taken for a bomb and the men’s hilarious attempts to explain this in Chinese makes them look like fanatics. They are thrown in jail where Mei Ling has to fly from Honolulu to bail them out. Mei Ling stays to make sure the men finally get on board the cruise ship. She and Min have dinner that night to get to know each other and the beginnings of a romance start to emerge. Hui has a drink with Wei in the ship’s bar. They see a beautiful Chinese woman who Wei had first seen back at their hotel. Wei mentions that she’s a Goddess. Hui tells him she’s an obvious prostitute. Wei disagrees. He says she’s the perfect woman. “You wouldn’t know the perfect woman even if you married her,” Hui retorts. Though this is an obvious sore point, Hui nonetheless tells Wei that he should look up his ex-wife, a woman he obviously still loves. Wei tells him to mind his own business.
The next morning the foursome embark on a helicopter tour of the famed Na Pali Cliffs (photo at left) of Kauai. But on the pier heading to the shuttle that will take them there Min spots a curious oddity. A Zodiac ocean craft, also used to visit the cliffs by sea, has the first four letters of its Hawaiian name, Hauoli, faded out so that the ending two letters, “l” and “i,” formulate the name of “Li.” Min, as usual, interprets this as a sign. Wei responds how ridiculous this is and urges them to continue to the shuttle. But Hui sides with Min, and Deshi, not wanting to cross either side, abstains. So the group follows the majority and signs on with a cruise employee who takes them out into the ocean. Of course the resultant ride, to them, is death defying and the men scream in terror. But as they proceed Deshi spots a whale and in his excitement stands to take a picture. As he tries to steady himself, the Zodiac hits a wave and Deshi’s camera flies out of his hand, hits the driver on the head, and knocks him back into the ocean. A minute passes before the men realize that their high speed craft doesn’t have a captain and they panic. Wei and Hui battle for control until they manage to turn it towards shore. Their relief is just for a mere few seconds since they quickly realize that they have no idea how to stop the boat. They speed into the shoreline and the resultant crash literally throws the men 20 feet into the air and has them landing face first in the shallows.
Hours pass and our heroes are still stranded on the beach. Wei determines that they will climb the mountain and seek help on the other side. Of course this is suicidal, but from their vantage point on the beach they cannot see how high an treacherous the cliff face. To Wei, some means of getting to civilization will avail itself to them. Hui and Min think they should stay, since the boat operator was last seen swimming to shore, he will certainly alert the ship and someone will come looking for them. Wei is adamant. He is through with following the lead of the others, which in his eyes has only led them to being stranded on the Big Island, thrown in jail on Maui, and now being lost on a deserted beach on Kauai. This time he won’t be denied. He leads and the rest have no choice but to follow. Of course this eventually leads to them reaching a ledge that has them unable to continue up and no way to get back down. Tempers flare and Hui and Wei get into a shoving match which has Hui dangling from a cliff. The men frantically pull him back up and Wei, in great remorse, apologizes, “I must be crazy. I almost kill my best friend.” The men all reconcile their feelings but feel they are stranded for good since their remoteness means their cell phones don’t work. But then, they hear the hum of a helicopter. It arrives literally in front of their ledge and inside, directing the pilot, is none other than Mei Ling. “That woman,” Wei surmises, “Must think we’re the stupidest people on the planet.”
Back in Waikiki, the men are the talk of local television, being cast as ignorant tourists who were lucky to get away with their lives. Hui and Wei commiserate in the hotel bar. Their antagonism behind them, they agree that as crazy as their trip was, they did their best to fulfill Fang’s wish. Wei leaves Hui and encounters the woman he saw on the cruise ship. Their idle conversation turns into a date night with them dancing at a local bistro. In his room, Min talks to Mei Ling on the phone. His disappointment over not finding “Li” inadvertently results in his insulting Mei Ling, and her joking conversation in return of what troubles she had to resolve with the men, gets misinterpreted by Min. The result is a spat that both can see developing but are powerless to stop. Back at the bar, Hui’s talk with the philosophical bartender gives him a renewed appreciation for the life he is going to return to back in Beijing. While Hui laments about all the headaches he has to handle as the owner of a bar, the bartender tells him that he’s been wanting to open up his own place for 30 years but something – private school education for his kids, then college tuition, then their marriage – had always prevented him. “You see your glass as half empty. I see it as half full.” Hui smiles and gets the metaphorical message and raises his glass. “You are a very good bartender.” Wei’s night out with the beautiful woman finds him being invited to her room. But there she kindly gives the pricing terms for what is to follow. Wei, realizing that Hui was right after all, is heartbroken, and leaves when the woman excuses herself to put on something more comfortable. Min, angry at himself for his stupidity with Mei Ling, takes it out on Deshi, bringing up all the dumb things that Deshi did that caused the group grief. Deshi leaves, saddened that this wonderful trip is ending on a sad note. Min catches up with him and apologizes and feels that he has spoiled everything for everybody.
The next morning, Min apologizes to Mei Ling. She accepts but in the drive to the airport, the mood in the van is quiet and solemn. Hui picks up on the mood. Everyone has their personal reasons, but in general, the trip is over and the regret of not coming close to finding “Li” has got everybody down. Since they are still early before their flight, Mei Ling suggests they stop to get some lunch. As they ponder their choices, Deshi notices a sight that seems vaguely familiar. In the passing distance he sees the sight of Aloha Tower (photo at right) and inquires about it. This prompts them to go there and have their lunch. Upon arriving, Mei Ling explains that Aloha Tower used to be the port where all visitors coming to Hawaii would arrive. Now seeing the building up close, Deshi recalls that the tower was the backdrop for the video that prompted Fang’s initial excitement. Min agrees. He asks Mei Ling if she could take them where she said the people would arrive. Mei Ling takes them to the dock which still exists. There, ironically, it is Wei who suddenly has a revelation. He determines that the photo was of them when they first met, and the lei Fang wears is the first lei he ever received, given by Li, who must have worked as a lei greeter for Aloha Tower! They visit the personnel office but the person who would approve looking into the employee archives is gone on a trip so they accept then that Mei Ling will follow up on this later after they leave. So they settle in for lunch and find the Tower is festive with a retirement party for an employee who is curiously named, “Li Lee,” a woman who has worked there for over 70 years. The coincidence stuns the men. It is then that Wei, and everyone else, realizes that the dying Fang “was” telling them the woman’s FULL name… “Li… LEE.” They rise from their table, interrupt the program, and approach the now very old woman, and Min then asks, “Ms. Li, pardon us for our extreme impertinence, but is this you?” To which Min provides her with their photo. The woman nods and in tears produces another photo of her as a young woman, with young Fang and his handwriting that reads, “Li, I will return for you next year. Love, Fang.” It becomes apparent that the woman has dutifully waited for the return of Fang since that very day they parted. The men trade awestruck looks to one another, stunned by an amazing sight. For what they see before them is unwavering and everlasting love and devotion.
As the men reach the end of their amazing journey and return home to Beijing, their lives are forever changed. Min readies to travel back to Hawaii. Wei has entrusted him to handle the legal work for Li to assure she inherits Fang’s 14 million dollar estate, and in so doing Min’s romance with Mei Ling will continue. Deshi is now independent and moves out of his mother’s house. Hui has become a better manager at his business as he now appreciates his work. And Wei finally brings himself to visit his ex-wife’s house and is allowed in.