Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Danielle Rose Russell, Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Camp, Dennis Bumpy Kanahele, Alec Baldwin
MPAA Rating: (for some language including suggestive comments)
Running Time: 1:45
Release Date: 5/29/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 28, 2015
There are times during Aloha when it feels as if we're watching a filmed version of the rough first draft of a screenplay. Then there are times when it feels as if writer/director Cameron Crowe simply started filming with the basic outline of a screenplay that had yet to be written.
This is a disaster, although it's difficult to declare the movie to be an unmitigated disaster. Surely a filmmaker as talented as Crowe and such a sturdy cast couldn't have intentionally produced something that seems so confused about its plot and characters. Surely there must be some mitigating factors at play here, but any theorizing about such things would be useless speculation. What we see is what we get, and what we get with Aloha is a movie that, on a fundamental level, fails to communicate anything of any particular value.
It's hard to believe that a story that seems so simple in retrospect could be mutilated beyond recognition, but such is the case here. We don't even learn a key component of the plot until more than three-quarters into the movie. It would have been helpful to know this information, because it explains why all of the characters are doing what they're doing and why they're all gathered on and around a military base on one of the Hawaiian Islands (When we learn what it is, we also start to wonder why it isn't the primary topic of conversation among these characters).
To give the movie the benefit of the doubt, it is possible that this information is revealed in the opening narration. To give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who might miss this vital detail, though, that introductory voice-over is a convoluted morass of every negative characteristic that has come to be associated with narration. It frontloads the movie with important information (save, apparently, for the one thing that, you know, would help us to comprehend the plot) about the main character and his purpose for traveling to Hawaii. Crowe seems to use the device as a rationale to avoid having to be bothered with such rudimentary notions as revealing the natures of the characters through their words and actions. All of the details come so quickly, too, that very few of them actually stick.
We learn that, as a child, Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) had dreams of becoming an astronaut. He missed his opportunity, as NASA funding diminished and private companies started to take over in the future of space exploration. Somehow, he ended up involved with Carson Welch (Bill Murray), an international businessman, and wound up in Afghanistan. He was wounded (Cooper's limp is the physical equivalent of an actor poorly implementing a dialect: It comes and goes at a moment's notice) and became a cynic.
In theory, Brian is in Hawaii to convince a group of separatist Hawaiian natives to give its blessing to a planned expansion of a U.S. military base. His military attachée is Allison Ng (Emma Stone), an Air Force pilot with a no-nonsense attitude but a naïve view of the world. Obviously, the two fall for each other because, well, they must.
Brian's ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams) fits into the story, too. She's currently married to a pilot (John Krasinski) who only expresses himself through gestures and minor facial contractions (A bit that subtitles this physicality is the movie's only somewhat inspired moment), and there's also the loaded line that her daughter (Danielle Rose Russell) is 12 and that Tracy broke up with Brian 13 years ago. Her son (Jaeden Lieberher) is obsessed with Hawaiian mythology and is convinced that Brian is the fulfillment of a legend that might have some thematic significance in a movie that cared enough about its characters to give us a reason to believe that.
Every character here feels like a device of some kind, although it remains unclear what ultimate purpose their motions serve. They really do just go through their motions. Brian is cynical but shows glimpses of hope when he's talking to Allison. Allison is all business until she drops the veneer with Brian (There's even a montage of them being happy together to hasten their courtship). Murray's eccentric billionaire does odd things. Alec Baldwin shows up a few times as a general with the sole purpose of yelling in a slightly amusing fashion. The kids are here to be cute, and Tracy (in the limited time the movie gives her) exists solely so that she can be generically conflicted between the man she once loved and the man to whom she's married.
These are merely the broad ideas for characters and a story. Aloha never gets past that step. It's a hollow vessel of a movie with plenty of holes in its sides to boot.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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