Synopsis – A celebrated military contractor returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs and reconnects with a long-ago love while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watch-dog assigned to him.
My Take – Its highly unfortunate that this film has been in news for all the wrong reasons. First the Sony email leak then the apparent racist casting of a white woman (Emma Stone) in the role of a Hawaiin. Its pretty obvious why the film ended up under-performing at the BO, as the media, critics and a lot of viewers had made up their mind about the movie long before they ever got around to watching it. Frankly Its not that bad of a film, sure we have come to expect a lot from Cameron Crowe movies (which I love by the way), hence the level of disappointment. Director/ Writer Cameron Crowe has given us some genuinely good films like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Almost Famous”, “We Bought A Zoo” to name a few. The thing you notice most about those incredible movies is how insightful and genuine the flow of language is between characters. It moves the story forward and gives each character depth and purpose to the story along with Crowe‘s strong doses of fun & quirky dialog. I think the main problem with this film is that its somewhat messy. Sure, it still is sentimental and has a couple of quotable lines, especially in a scene where Rachel McAdams is reading a letter from her husband. It also has some funny moments, my favorite being the scene in which Bradley Cooper and John Krasinski stare at each other understanding what the other is saying without speaking a single word (but we get to read the subtitles and it is a hilarious scene). But being so choppy & meagerly edited, this 105 minute long film takes almost two third of its run time to make sense. The story follows Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), a military contractor who is returning to Hawaii after 13 years to convince the King of the island (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele) into giving them a 20 minute blessing in the approval of an Air Force gate.
Brian is currently working for a millionaire named Carson Welch (Bill Murray), who is planning on launching a satellite from there. Gilcrest reunites with an odd former Air Force buddy, Colonel “Fingers” Lacy (Danny McBride) and he’s also confronted with old flame Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams), who is married now to Air Force pilot John “Woody” Woodside (John Krasinski) and has two children. Upon Brian’s arrival the two meet up and continue to be very fond of each other. Also their is an Air force pilot named Allison (Emma Stone) who is assigned as his watch dog, meticulous in the performance of her duties, and fascinated with the man in whom she sees greatness while still referring to as “a wreck”, she insists on tagging along for a scheduled meeting between Gilcrest and his old acquaintance Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahale. And despite an awkward introduction the two begin to form a friendship, thus creating a sort of love triangle. Meanwhile, suspiciously watching all of this from the sidelines is General Dixon (Alec Baldwin), a man who hates Gilcrest and may or may not be involved in some shady dealings with Carson Welch. What Gilcrest thinks will be a simple mission that will take less than a week and give him a chance to get back into the game is complicated by ghosts from his past and new challenges in his present. The look & the feel of the film fits right in the mold of a typical Cameron Crowe film, but somehow the plot doesn’t make much sense throughout the entire film and the narrative seems to be missing something. I don’t know if it’s the way the film was edited or simply because of the screenplay but it is incoherent. Crowe has always excelled as a writer so it’s difficult to understand what went wrong here. The movie has so many shifts in tone and pace that it is very uneven from start to finish where some moments are rushed and some are dragged out for a while. There were brief moments of comedy here and there but nothing really to deem this movie a romantic comedy, it got me to chuckle a few times throughout but they were so spaced out that by the end the romantic emphasis trumps whatever comedy there was. John Krasinski was the source for 80% of the comedy in this film, pretty much every time he was on-screen i was laughing, not the laugh out loud kind but a good chuckle, so he bought a nice lighthearted feel to the film. The entire mythology surrounding Hawaii and their belief doesn’t make much sense either and it doesn’t add anything interesting. For example, Tracy’s son, played by Jaeden Lieberher, is always filming everyone with his camera and talking about more of the island’s mythology, while Allison also seems to be in awe of the spiritual energy of Hawaii, and she tells everyone she meets that she is one quarter Hawaiian. Through most of the movie, it seems that Crowe couldn’t decide if he wanted this movie to be a romantic comedy, a military drama or an ode to Hawaiian history and culture, much like “The Descendants” (2011). The plot is very weak for most of the film, you occasionally have 10 minute bursts where the NASA based main plot takes control but those moments are very few and you only really piece together what is happening and why later on in he movie.
At the other moments it is the romantic elements that drive this movie at a slow pace towards the end. Even though i thought that Bradley and Emma‘s characters had good chemistry and Bradley and Rachel‘s characters also related well i thought that some of the events that happen between them weren’t natural. The inclusion of the love triangle that kind of exists for some of the film only adds to the list of romantic film cliches to be found. As you’re watching Crowe‘s story unfold, you begin to wonder if the film exists mainly so we can watch the pretty people dance around each other, both literally and figuratively, but the pieces do eventually fit together in the last 20 or so minutes by becoming very focused, dramatic, romantic and even joyful, but it may be too late for that by then. I honestly don’t know how Crowe managed to engage me in those final 20 minutes considering I didn’t care for these characters or their story, so I will give him some credit for at least ending the film on a strong note. Along the way, the talented cast is a pleasure to watch, yet I have to agree with everyone, Emma Stone (whom I love) is woefully miscast – and her character goes through all kinds of crazy changes that have no explanation or logic. I feel like they made a mess of her character, she felt like a blend of a few different characters that take over her body at different points in the movie. It would have made sense if there were events forcing her to change in certain ways but the only reason she was changing so much was because the script said so. Plus despite the strong chemistry I just couldn’t buy her as a romantic lead paired up with the Bradley Cooper, who by the way manages to be likable as always in a very unlikable role. Danny McBride pulls off his serious role as Colonel “Fingers” Lacy really well. John Krasinski is an absolute powerhouse in this movie. In fact, his character is my favorite in the entire film. As you may have guessed from the trailer, his character doesn’t have many lines. Don’t let that fool you. While the script helps, the way Krasinski pours feeling through his body language. The exchange you witness in the trailer barely nicks the surface. The adorable Rachel McAdams tried with her part and does an admirable job. Bill Murray & Alec Baldwin are funny in their small roles. On the whole, ‘Aloha’ is a watchable romantic comedy which is let down by its disjointed writing. Yet, if you are a fan of Cameron Crowe or romantic comedies in general, even though this one is very skewed to the romantic side I think you may still enjoy it.
Director – Cameron Crowe
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 105 minutes