Love triangles: Even America’s bravest are no match for them. Academy Award nominees Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Bill Murray and Alec Baldwin star in Oscar winner Cameron Crowe’s Aloha.
Cast of Characters:
Brian Gilcrest – Bradley Cooper
Capt. Allison Ng – Emma Stone
Tracy Woodside – Rachel McAdams
Carson Welch – Bill Murray
John “Woody” Woodside – John Krasinski
Col. “Fingers” Lacy – Danny McBride
Gen. Dixon – Alec Baldwin
Bob Largent – Bill Camp
Director – Cameron Crowe
Screenplay – Cameron Crowe
Producer – Scott Rudin & Cameron Crowe
Rated PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments
Air Force vet and private defense contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) once set his sights on space, but since NASA’s broke, he entered the space race through the private sector with billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). After nearly getting killed during a botched mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, Gilcrest’s dreams ended up being shot down in flames, and he was left to take the fall himself after Welch left him hanging high and dry.
Some time goes by, and now Brian’s been sent to Hawaii, the site of his former glory days, reduced to overseeing the blessing of a Honolulu military base. Insult is added to injury for him when overeager Capt. Allison Ng (Emma Stone) is assigned to essentially be his babysitter, and go figure, she immediately falls for him harder and faster than it’d take to have someone at hello. Just when you think it can’t get any more complicated for him, Brian runs into his old flame Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams), who’s now married to fighter pilot “Woody” Woodside (John Krasinski).
My optimism for Aloha was kept in check with just a bit of skepticism. Sure this comes from filmmaker Cameron Crowe, the writer/director behind Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. However, this also comes from Cameron Crowe, the writer/director who hasn’t done a good film since 2001’s Vanilla Sky. Since the Tom Cruise psychological thriller, he gave us the atrocious Elizabethtown and the formulaic, matter-of-factly titled We Bought a Zoo, which while far from being the abysmal bore that was Orlando Bloom’s lead balloon, was still far from Crowe’s return to form.
Of course, two strikes against five hits (six if you wanna count his writing contributions to Fast Times at Ridgemont High) isn’t enough to write Crowe completely off, even though it’s been well over a decade since he’s turned in anything that could even be considered just good let alone great. But many had reason to worry with his next project Aloha. One, the film was supposed to begin production all the way back in 2009, with Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon set to star, but production delays held it back. Two, one of the many issues revealed with last year’s Sony hacking scandal was then Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal’s complaints over the film’s nonsensical plot.
Unfortunately, I have to second Pascal’s gripes.
Aloha is the worst kind of bad movie. Why harp on about a crappy Happy Madison film when they’ve assembled a shit streak that pretty much makes a crappy movie from them expected? No, this is a crappy film coming from a man that can, and has many times before, make great films.
As I said, despite my skepticism, I still had hopes the Cameron Crowe of old would return here. But like last week’s Tomorrowland, Aloha juggles a lot and fails in doing so. Crowe’s touching on everything from the privatization of the space program, the military industrial complex, and Hawaii sovereigntists, all wrapped up inside a “love triangle” (which, thankfully, isn’t as much a love triangle as the marketing suggests). Aside from a few well-executed scenes, none of it gels at all, and yet everything still manages to wrap itself up in nice, neat little bow.
At its core, Aloha is similar to Jerry Maguire in that it revolves around a central character, Brian Gilcrest, trying to get his mojo back with the help and inspiration of the leading lady (Elizabethtown and We Bought a Zoo also shared this concept to much lesser effect). But the journey to Gilcrest’s redemption is murky to say the least, lacking cohesion and at times any sense whatsoever. Things begin with Brian’s past being quickly explained through a rushed voice-over narrated by Cooper. From there, it’s back and forth between Brian and Carson’s satellite launch, which may or may not actually be a nuclear weapon, and jarringly out of place Hawaiian mysticism involving sovereigntists, the sacredness of the sky and native spirits that serve no purpose other than forcing the romantic angle between Cooper and Stone’s characters (a fact made no more clearer than when they have a run in with those spirits).
Of course, you could say whatever. Bring the trademark Cameron Crowe charm. Bring the engrossing characters. Bring the whip-smart dialogue. In spite of its problems, let the film coast on those three elements that have defined his career. But there’s very little charm or engrossing character development to be found here. At times, even the dialogue comes off forced like a lousy fan fiction version of a Cameron Crowe film. Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski are stuck playing caricatures. Danny McBride’s Col. Lacy seems to have a nervous tick with his fingers (hence the nickname) that’s never really explained. Bill Murray is wasted on a MacGuffin plot device involving a ludicrous rocket launch. Worst of all, Emma Stone, a talented actress who was so great in Birdman last year and brought so much depth to that character, not to mention the terrific chemistry she shared with Andrew Garfield in her two Spider-Man films, is wasted even more in an over-the-top performance that’s shockingly bad. Her character’s aggressively upbeat personality will wear on your nerves quicker than it does to Gilcrest; the difference between you and Cooper’s character is that you won’t nonsensically fall head over heels for her halfway through the film.
Cooper does what he can with the clunky material (which probably had a hatchet taken to it on more than one occasion), and unlike Elizabethtown, he’s a much more charming and charismatic leading man here than Orlando Bloom was. The few scenes he shares with Rachel McAdams’s Tracy are the few moments of the film that feel even the slightest bit genuine, and to Crowe’s credit he thankfully doesn’t lead us to believe these two are getting back together, or try to force a reunion between them. When it comes to Brian and Tracy, we never get the impression of rekindled love; it’s always what could’ve been but what will never be.
Why couldn’t the rest of the film feel just as genuine?
Aloha has a talented cast and moments of Cameron Crowe spark and wit; however, the cast is saddled with a distractingly meandering plot and characters riddled with false notes, and those said moments are disappointingly rarer than what we know Crowe is capable of accomplishing. Even with the talent on hand, it’s so unfortunate that what he’s accomplished seems like forever ago. I still have hope that Crowe’s got another good film up his sleeves, but there’s only so much of it left, and at this point he’s about two films away from becoming the next Rob Reiner.
And no, I’m not referring to the This Is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride Rob Reiner either.
I give Aloha a D+ (★½).