CROWE’S ALOHA SAYS GOODBYE
BEFORE EVERY SAYING HELLO
Director Cameron Crowe has produced someone quite interesting movies over the years in Hollywood. First starting out as writer for the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Crowe directed the music video “Change Your Heart” for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers before making his feature length debut of 1989’s Say Anything. Crowe continued directing movies from such films hits as Jerry Macquire, and Almost Famous to mixed reviews of Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown, and We Bought A Zoo. Sony Pictures now releases Cameron Crowe’s newest film, a romantic comedy titled Aloha. Does this movie rekindled Crowe’s magic in filmmaking or does the film follow recent missteps from the director’s past entry misfires?
Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), a former disgraced military man who has recently joined the private sector, has arrived in Hawaii to help secure native approval of a launch site for billionaire owner Carson Welch (Bill Murray). His military liaison for this assignment is Captain Ng (Emma Stone), a perky go-getter who immediately takes a liking to Brian, optimistically hoping to crack his harden exterior as they team up to sway the native’s sovereign leader (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele) for their project. While in Hawaii, Brian is reunited with his ex-love Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who’s now the mother of two kids, and married to military airman Woody (John Krasinki), a strong, silent man who’s upset over the reunion. Brian handles Tracy’s flirtations, trying to pick up the pieces of their former relationship, while also drawn to Ng, who slowly desires a romance with the visiting military contractor.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Back in December of 2014, over 30,000 emails from Sony Pictures were leaked to the public as part of the cyber security breach triggered by the upcoming controversy release of the Seth Rogen’s comedy, The Interview. The emails hacked included the studio’s strategic plans, financial records, health data about employees and the studio’s business partners. What was the most peculiar were the negative and spiteful email comments uncovered by this security breach from Sony Pictures’s former co-chairman Amy Pascal, bashing a shortlist of “A”-list Hollywood talent and film personnel. Crowe’s Aloha film was one of those as Pascal commented on the film, saying “It makes no sense” and “I’m never starting a movie again when the script is ridiculous. I don’t care how much I love the director and the actors.” Following this leaked debacle and Pascal stepping down from her position, Sony remained silent on Aloha, releasing a theatrical trailer in theaters quietly with a limited promotional fanfare. Now, after viewing the movie, Pascal’s words, however harsh, might ring true as Aloha feels haphazard and never truly rise to the occasion.
For the most part, Aloha has all the right pieces for making a great rom-com (romantic comedy) film. A disgraced protagonist, comical side characters, a great cast of actors, two love interests, and the torn ideals that ensue with those interests. It’s just a shame that Cameron Crowe can’t find a cohesive way put them together correctly. The movie’s narrative just simply feels all over the map, unable juggle the several plotlines of the movie to a viewer’s satisfaction. While the trailer for Aloha presents the film as a romantic comedy feature, the movie is slightly not both. Sure, there’s romance, but not enough passion to cultivate a connection to the character of Brian (whether rekindling an old relationship or blossoming into a new one). As for the comedy, Aloha has a hard time drawing laughs with particular scenes that feel too disjointed. I honestly felt a little confused on whether I should laugh at something or not. There’s also the topic issue of private capitalist taking over a native land, which takes point during the film’s first and third act, but ultimately flounders and doesn’t mesh well with Aloha’s centerpiece narrative of Gilcrest’s relationship with Ng and Tracy. In short, Aloha’s narrative is weak, confusing, and uneven.
Aloha does have a lot of talented actors and actresses to play its selected characters. Bradley Cooper, who’s been recently making a name for himself in Hollywood with breakout roles in films like Silver Linings Playbook and American Sniper, plays Brian Gilcrest with enough jaded cynicism and likeability as the film’s main character. Just don’t expect an oscar-winning performance from Cooper in this role. Emma Stone’s portrayal of the enthusiastic Captain Ng is actually pretty good. Stone has that unique charismatic charm and brings that to her character. She’s also downright pretty, so you can’t go wrong with that. Rachel McAdams plays Brian’s former lover Tracy, but, while she has on-screen chemistry with Cooper, her character is push aside a lot, making it very obvious to viewers on who Gilcrest is ultimately going to choose.
Unfortunately, Aloha’s minor characters are underutilized and are poorly written with wasted acting talents on this feature. John Krasinki’s Woody is more of a physical presence in Aloha with his character speaking only a few lines of dialogue here and there (with some clever laughs in some scenes). Bill Murray’s Carson Welch, Brian boss in Hawaii, is eccentric and flat and is a far cry from greater roles that the legendary comedic actor has done in the past. Danny McBride’s Colonel “Fingers” Lacy doesn’t really do much in the film than just constantly twirling his fingers around. Alec Baldwin has basically three scenes in the movie as General Dixon with the only purpose in the movie to produce laughs as his character insults Cooper’s Brian.
In the winning category, Crowe uses a lot of Hawaiian or Hawaiian-esque music for the Aloha’s soundtrack with a lot of interesting selections. It’s pleasant and easy on the ears. Also, the movie’s setting (which was actually filmed on location in Hawaii) is beautiful at times with shots that soak up the naturalistic beauty of this tropical realm. There’s also a lot of talk of Hawaiian culture and lore in the film, which is quite interesting. The problem, however, is that it vaguely glosses over them, missing a golden opportunity for Aloha to fully explore and examine the Polynesian culture of Hawaii.
I really wanted to like Aloha (Cameron Crowe’s “Love letter to Hawaii” film), but this movie seems to be doomed from the start. This military romantic drama / comedy of a movie has a talented ensemble cast with some interesting character and a dose of Hawaiian influence in music, culture and lore. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much on the positive side. The film is riddled with uneven tones and an inconsistent narrative that seems too vague to tell a well-rounded and compelling story for audiences to care about. Fans of the cast might give the movie a chance (as a rental), but, as it stands, Aloha ultimately fails to create an enticing feature with majority of moviegoers saying goodbye to the movie before ever saying hello.