by: Jay Carlson
I wanted to love Aloha. No matter what I always root for Cameron Crowe. He’s been responsible for making a lot of films that were perfect for me at the point in my life that I saw them. That said, they haven’t always stood the test of time. Cameron Crowe films are like people that I was best friends with at a certain point of my life that I grew apart from. Then, every once in a while I’ll bump into them and it’s nice, but slightly awkward since you’re not that person anymore and neither are they. When you were tight though, you were really tight.
In Aloha, a celebrated military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs – the US Space program in Honolulu, Hawaii – and reconnects with a long-ago love, Tracy (Rachel McAdams) while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force
watchdog, Allison Ng (Emma Stone) assigned to him. It much busier than this sounds, with plots about obtaining a “blessing of a pedestrian gate” from a native Hawaiian king, dealing with his murky (and confusing) past in the Middle East and supervising a nefarious satellite launch.
Gilcrest’s clunky history the most confounding element of the film, which isn’t a good thing since this is the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for. Information is dropped throughout the film, but rather than help us understand the character it only leads to more confusion. Perhaps it’s all in there and is easier understood with repeated viewings, but the way it’s presented made me feel like there was a LOT that hit the cutting room floor that would helped us understand things much more.
When we’re introduced to Emma Stone’s Air Force watchdog, Allison Ng it is impossible to believe that Crowe didn’t direct her to do her best impression of Kirsten Dunst’s Claire from Elizabethtown. I was waiting to see her mime taking a picture of Bradley Cooper and talk about collecting last looks. Once she finally lets her hair down we see more to the character than the two dimensional caricature, unfortunately it’s just not enough.
Aloha is truly a mess, a film with an identity crisis. It doesn’t know what film it wants to be, so instead it tries to be four different films and none of them are executed very well. Is it a film about Cooper Coming back to a past love? Or is it about Cooper reconciling the decisions he’s made in his past? Is it about his romance with Emma Stone? Or is it about him redeeming himself in the present? There are some really nice moments but it meanders along without focus and doesn’t hang together as a whole film.
It’s frustrating that a filmmaker of this caliber with such an amazing cast (the best he’s ever had) has made such a tremendous misfire. I was genuinely excited to see what Crowe would do with great comedic actors like Bill Murray and Danny McBride. The answer unfortunately is not very much, they all feel wasted. McAdams fares the best and does well with what she’s given. John Krasinski has some nice moments throughout the film but all of that is undone with his ludicrous last scene.
Aloha would have been far better, had it focused on McAdams and was a story about Cooper coming back into town after all that time and dealing with their complicated past while experiencing trouble with her marriage. Cut all the rest out, the military, the private sector, the dark past, the satellite, the
blessing, all of it. Keep Emma Stone’s character and make her less of an Elizabethtown caricature. THAT would have been a great Cameron Crowe film.
When all is said and done, I still believe in Cameron Crowe. He still has great films in him that I hope to one day spend time with.