A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Cameron Crowe, perhaps most famously remembered for Jerry Maguire, has created a film that is unbearably vapid in every single way, shape, and form. If you can imagine a most thoroughly excruciating film experience where by the end of you want to open several bottles of wine and down them to get your mind in a completely different place, Aloha is worse than that. The beginning is maudlin enough for the type of movie Aloha is trying to be, but from that point forward it never picks up any type of momentum for longer than about thirty seconds. Even the moments in the trailers that seemed would give the story some gravitas are constructed in such a haphazard fashion that any semblance of logic is instantaneously wiped away. They’re presented to the audience as these potentially great, showy moments that are heavy-hitting. But as soon as the dialogue actually begins, those moments simply fall off one of the beautiful Hawaiian cliffs to their showy deaths. More so than its truly awful dialogue, nausea-inducing editing, nonsensical plotting, or even casting Emma Stone as a biracial Hawaiian native, Aloha’s biggest sin is that it simply doesn’t make any sense. The movie ardently espouses stupidity with such ever-present force that you have to give serious consideration to the idea that it just might be a parody of itself, but it’s not nearly clever enough to accomplish such a feat. Crowe noted that Aloha is his love letter to Hawaii. If that’s the case, I’m sure Hawaii would prefer a declaration of hate instead. It might be more entertaining.
The plot, or whatever Crowe calls it here, is centered around a tightly-wounded guy who happens to be in Hawaii (sound familiar?). Perhaps Crowe assumes that because everyone loves Bradley Cooper, the character of Brian Gilcrest doesn’t need actual multi-layered characterization or really any characterization at all besides gruff. Cooper largely is stuck playing a singular note throughout the entire movie as a result and his classic charm wilts away like a flower struck suddenly by a blizzard or something. One-note characters rarely drag a movie down, but if the entirety of the narrative structure finds its crux in such a character, that spells disaster. It’s also never made truly clear what he’s actually doing, so you can at least understand what the heck his actual job is. A defense contractor in Hawaii is logical, but once the actual plot relation to him being there in the first place kicks in, bemusement billows all around. Gilcrest’s primary job happens to be overseeing the launch of a weapons satellite, but what that exactly involves is never explained properly or indeed how he features in all of it either. Being told that “this is the man for the job” repeatedly requires actual narrative proof of that being the case. The camera following him as it looks like he’s typing away frantically like he’s about to turn in a paper that is due at 11:59 by 11:58 is simply lazy.
Equally lazy is the romance in Aloha, which seems to follow the rule of pushing equivalently good-looking people together with the assumption that there’s actually chemistry there. The Tourist did the same thing with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, but at least the rest of it was entertaining. Rachel McAdams as Cooper’s previous flame is easily the best thing about this entire movie and it’s truly sad to see the warmth and charm she brings to this tepid affair be overshadowed constantly by the tediousness of everything about her. Occasionally one can see how these two people had fallen in love but there simply isn’t enough of a focus here for it to feel substantial in any fashion. The time shaft to McAdams is a prevalent issue throughout Aloha, from characters to plot to more meaningful themes alike. Bill Murray is present from time to time, but it’s hard not to think that Wes Anderson managed to get more mileage out of the venerated actor in far less screen time in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Danny McBride, who can be viciously hilarious while making it seem effortless, is barely existent in this film at all. Alec Baldwin reprises his Emmy-winning role as Jack Donaghy from the seminal comedy 30 Rock for a few scenes before the camera sadly moves elsewhere. John Krasinski benefits the most because he basically doesn’t have any of the film’s dialogue, which inadvertently helps him become the most interesting part of this movie anyhow. Emma Stone’s lovable charm is dialed up to an eleven here so even her normally appealing charm unfortunately becomes grating. Her effort is clearly on display here, but the script never supports her.
Aloha has garnered duly deserved criticism for its whitewashing of Hawaii, best articulated in the movie repeatedly telling you that Emma Stone’s character (notably named Allison Ng) is a quarter Hawaiian. By a stretch, that could be true but if Crowe is so concerned with the audience believing in Allison’s ethnic background, then why not simply cast an actress whose ethnic background is at least more ambiguous? There is a slight amount of effort to incorporate the native secessionist point of view, but it feels so supremely tacked on with everything else that it feels extremely desperate despite any good intentions involved. That could summarize the entire movie if you think about it. There’s clearly some semblance of good intentions, an optimism involved here if you will (or maybe that’s just because Hawaii is as gorgeous here as you would imagine it to be). But it’s all so hazardously put together that it feels less like a legitimate film than a bullet point list with a price tag attached to it, occasionally venturing into mature territory but suddenly pulling back before it’s even close to approaching it. Whether it be Hawaiian secessionists, the threat of the military-industry complex, complex human emotions, or even basic ones, Aloha collapses on every front. The best thing about it? Its running time.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Produced by: Cameron Crowe, Scott Rudin
Written by: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin
Music by: Jónsi & Alex
Cinematography: Eric Gautier
Edited by: Joe Hutshing
Production Company: RatPac, Regency Enterprises, Scott Rudin Productions, Vinyl Films
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Dates: May 29, 2015
Image Courtesy: The Villages Theatres