“Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek Immediate Shelter. THIS IS NOT A DRILL…”
On January 13, 2018, those three sentences were the start of a 40-minute statewide panic across the islands of Hawaii. It came at a time when tensions between North Korea and the USA repositioned to an all-time high thanks to back-and-forth threats and uncivil exchanges. Locals and travelers alike received an eerie awakening as early as 8:07 a.m. by the Emergency Alert System. But soon, people would realize that it was all just one ‘simple’ miscommunication.
What would you do if you were warned about an early and unexpected visit to the grave? Would you spend your final moments liberating yourself of dark secrets? Or, would you splurge on things you wouldn’t dare pay for on a normal day? For married vacationers Larry and Penny, their Hawaiian get-away encompasses it all, and it’s nothing short of hilarious.
Josh Covitt and Michael Feld’s comedic short, 40 Minutes Over Maui, puts a hysterical spin on the Hawaiian Missile Crisis. Julie Brister (Goliath) and Johnny Ray Meeks (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) play the charming couple seeking to enjoy a quiet and relaxing vacation. Upon receiving the emergency alert, their vacation goes south, and they’re forced to deal with their secrets, insecurities, and impromptu desires and cravings. But more importantly, they must do it all in the face of imminent death.
“Upon receiving the emergency alert…they’re forced to deal with their secrets, insecurities and impromptu desires and cravings.”
The magic of 40 Minutes comes from its simplicity in showing how humans might react under such duress. And in doing so, Covitt and Feld’s script achieves an honest and realistic, yet hilarious interpretation of a calming panic. Everything these characters do (or desire) is relatable in every way- from binge eating overly-priced hotel snacks to unlocking sexual desires. They even have pure moments of complete vulnerability, balancing the script from one just resembling a satirical spin on a potential national crisis to one of great meaning and reflection.
It was unexpected, but Larry and Penny experiment with all the joys of living life on the edge for a short while, at least. Regarding that, Brister and Meeks couldn’t have been more convincing. Their chemistry is exceptional, and the way they effortlessly nag each other one minute to embrace each other with unconditional love the next was beautifully captivating. 40 Minutes Over Maui’s premise is a hard sell, especially considering the runtime, but Brister and Meeks master the execution with compelling delivery.
Despite coming off as a debut stage play at times, the script never over welcomes its stay regarding the characters’ actions, personalities, and conversations. For instance, Larry’s a writer who never writes, and Penny is the supportive wife who just wants to see her husband succeed. But even when faced with the possibility of dying, they become the best versions of themselves through action, understanding, and, most importantly, being there for each other—traits only strengthened in disaster. And in short, Covitt and Feld’s film is elevated from a funny spoof to great achievement in character exhibition under calamity.
It’s hard to imagine what we’d do in a situation like the 2018 Hawaiian Missile Crisis. But 40 Minutes Over Mauishows that even through moments of sheer panic, humans can connect. Whether that be through sharing secrets or basking in the enjoyment of guilty pleasures, it’s never too late to stop and enjoy the simple things…even if it’s only for 40 minutes.