“The future isn’t just something that happens. It’s a brutal force, with a great sense of humor. that will steamroll you if you’re not paying attention.”
A disgraced military defense contractor (Bradley Cooper) is rehired by an old boss to oversee the launch of a weapons satellite in Hawaii. Upon his arrival he reconnects with an old love (Rachel McAdams) but finds himself becoming increasingly attracted to an Air Force pilot (Emma Stone) assigned to watch over him.
Cameron Crowe is the man who brought us such brilliance as Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, and Vanilla Sky. Like fellow director Ridley Scott, Crowe has been on a downward spiral of late with his last two films being the pitiful Elizabethtown, and the mediocre We Bought a Zoo. With hopes of redemption, his latest project brings with it a massively impressive cast, and one of the most beautiful landscapes. Hoping to blend together the visual awe of a movie like The Descendants, with the visceral emotive nature of former Crowe film Jerry Maguire. What we get after all this mixing, is an eclectic mess of a story that can’t find it’s footing.
If nothing else, Aloha is a very pretty film. For the most part that beauty is only skin deep, as the film struggles to sustain all of it’s many subplots and messages. Crowe approaches the landscape with meticulous care and concern for the mythos and culture. Sweeping shots of the hawaiian landscape, and several nods to the islands legends and apparitions, reveal how much thought he put into the backdrop of the film. Crowe makes the island a character, and it ends up being the single most interesting and developed character in the film.
Aloha serves as a deconstruction of sorts. Crowe has several misfires in terms of narrative. The film has trouble settling on which plot should take center, and as a result ends up feeling like three potentially promising films cut down and forced into one. Crowe abandons all identity and looks to create a reheated salvaging operation, with a film that was edited into oblivion. There is simply zero heart, and it feels like a bad impression of a Cameron Crowe film.
Aloha is one of the most oddly paced films to date. It starts a breakneck speed with a introductory voiceover by our most recognizable star, to some fast paced expository dialogue between the rest of our recognizable stars. The film opens furiously yet when the dust settles on the first act, the audience is left with nothing. We have no idea who these characters are or what their motives are, the relationships ascend far too quickly to be given any real consideration. The many subplots are fruitlessly revealed as they are mostly unexplained. The viewers will spend most of the first half of the film trying to figure out what the hell is going on. It is just a complete mess, but it is still somehow an interesting mess.
The film has three subplots, and none of them are really developed so it’s unclear which is supposed to take center stage. The most interesting of which is undoubtedly the conflict between the modern military and the native people of Hawaii. Cooper’s Gilcrest makes his way up the mountain side of the gorgeous landscape to a small independent village of proud natives who are adverse to the presence of this privatized nuisance on their homeland. This portion of the film is far too short and not nearly explored enough. If made the central plot line then this film may have been much more compelling and provided the audience with an easier to digest narrative allowing for the emotional beats to land with more punch. Instead we get a couple of brief glimpses into a truly interesting story, but it’s only skin deep.
The least interesting story is easily the subplot involving the terribly misused Bill Murray. Murray playing an eccentric billionaire with fuzzy motives, and an oddly strained relationship with past transgressions that are only hinted at with Gilcrest. Murray plays this enigmatic shell of a character that winds up becoming this undeveloped mustache twirling caricature, evil laughing all the way to the bank until he is snafued by our would by hero. This story takes hold at the strangest of moments, and breaks up the emotion into this comically inept narrative that draws from nothing and no one. Murray is meant to be mysterious, but the idea that this figure would be allowed to launch his evil plans without any deterrence, say for one person who magically develops a conscience mid film is far too silly.
Aloha is so supremely animated that nothing ever seems to make sense in this world. The relationships are so underwhelmingly contrived. There is no heart or even the slightest air of believability between any of the characters because the movie elects to cut in and out of scenes and dialogue at such pace that it is impossible to settle in and allow for these budding love stories to take hold and grow with the audience. The former love of Gilcrest is played by McAdams. She seems to long for the days of her life with her former love, pining for him while holding back a secret that has divided her now family. Her husband Woody (John Krasinski) is this mute of a man that can’t seem to express any feelings aloud, but has several silent bro conversations with possible rival Gilcrest. These silent exchanges are defty hilarious, but they only provide us a break from the monotonous story arc that is these dead end relationships.
Aloha is an overcrowded undeveloped first draft of something that has greatness in it. Emma Stone’s character sums up this film in one line “Before it all fell apart there was greatness.” Well the same can be said for this film. With a extensively talented cast, and premier director looking to return to form, a beautiful background, and a potentially compelling story Aloha shamefully wastes all of it’s tools to serve up a devastatingly tragic mess. With some debate that this might be Crowe’s worst film of his career, this is an utter failure. It is a shallow experience that choses to keep true emotion at arms length. One common denominator throughout Crowe’s films is a wonderful soundtrack and a surreal vision. The soundtrack is beautiful, as the old hawaiian folk music is inserted perfectly to break up some of the classic rock tunes making for wonderfully utilized soundtrack that holds the films pieces together slightly. The visuals are all top notch and the acting is solid, even with the awful script.
Aloha is almost a complete wash, but then in the waning moments there is one particularly emotional scene that actually delivers. It’s a beautiful segment that if you blink, you might miss the only truly viable and ardent interaction between two individuals. If the film had built this more, than this scene would have landed much harder, but still, it does in fact land. This particular scene sums up a film of wasted opportunities. Aloha is three potentially solid stories, that if explored separately could make for three fantastic films, but here we are trying to Hollywood-Ize even the most sanctified of lands.
2/5 Do Better Bro