Aloha (2015)

Aloha (2015)
  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Cameron Crowe
  • Cast: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin


A celebrated military contractor returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs – the US Space program in Honolulu, Hawaii – and reconnects with a long-ago love while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog assigned to him.


  • I’ve always thought of Cameron Crowe and James L. Brooks as the same director. Scenes of manipulatively extended, romcom dialogue is what’s in both of their arsenals. With Aloha (my newest review), Crowe possesses this nugget but doesn’t go overboard. He instead lets the conch of a pedestrian filmmaker careen out. In fact, about the only thing that reminded me of his latest was the soundtrack. The guy who gave us Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire still wants to belt out the classics (Tears for Fears, The Who, and Hall & Oats oh my!). Is it fair that critics everywhere are currently lambasting his ode to Paradise (Paradise being a nickname via America’s 50th state)? No it’s not. Along with another ribbing droned on Cam with 2005’s Elizabethtown, I sympathize in saying that said Kentucky fable and Aloha are flawed but quite watchable. Here, “you had me at hello” slightly translates into “you had me at kinda.”

    Make no mistake about it though, Aloha is somewhat messy. Discombobulated, choppy, and meagerly edited also comes to mind. At certain intervals, it descends into almost nothing. Then when you least expect it, there are some genuine moments. But hey, it’s safe to assume that I’m not overwhelmed with praise. Uneven is indeed, a prickly term. I mean, is this a flick possessing a love triangle paired with quadruple facets? Sort of. Is what’s on screen the right stuff touted as spaceflight symposium? Okay, why not. And is Cameron Crowe working for the tourism bureau in Hawaii? It sure seemed like it. Granted, I’ve never witnessed anything so bent on heightening the glow of Mele Kalikimaka in my entire life. I don’t need to fly ten hours to experience the rainy season or surf the Pipeline. After viewing this scenic mesh with a running time of 107 minutes, I’ve already gotten my fix.

    Anyway, after being nominated for three consecutive Oscars (in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper), Bradley “I got the world by the tail” Cooper is in almost every frame of Aloha. Here, Philadelphia’s proud son tries his hand at playing a government contractor named Brian Gilcrest. Brain has been given a second chance. He’s on the comeback trail and primed to work for a billionaire named Carson Welch (played by Bill Murray who sports some worldly scruff). Basically, he’s in the process of launching a satellite and his talent rides on the concept of computer hacking via the Japanese intelligence (I think that’s accurate). To complete this act, he has to venture out east by going back to the Aloha State (Hawaii of course). And while taking in the cool breeze, Mr. “Sexy Pants” (his unwanted nickname) runs into an old girlfriend (Rachel McAdams as Tracey Woodside), romances an Air Force watchdog assigned to follow him (Emma Stone as Allison Ng), and deals with an unsympathetic General (Dixon played by Alec Baldwin) who blasts his performances for past job excerpts. This is all done within the backdrop of ancient Hawaiian customs, picturesque Cessna rides, and Kahiko hula dances. In 2011’s The Descendants, George Clooney proclaims, “Paradise? Paradise can go f**k itself”. In 2015, Cooper’s character says “you’re not gonna pick my brains; they’re unpickable”. Ah, Hawaii speak. Ring me another Mai Tai bartender.

    All in all, the word aloha is defined as a Hawaiian term faceted to envelope greetings or the parting from someone. I was embraced cordially but still will greet Aloha the film, as a mixed bag. It’s a vehicle that starts like an entered dream in which there is no beginning (this is a rule I obtained from the concepts of 2010’s Inception). The proceedings then veer into deeper territory with some Space Age fabric not to mention sound barrier breakaways. Oh and the lovey dovey aroma is also in the air so try not to be too polarized by what you see. My rating: 2 and a half stars. Affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. That in a nutshell, heralds Crowe’s current, May release as the cinematic equivalent of a mild hallelujah. See it and be sure to take the proverbial high road.

    Of note: I don’t dislike Emma Stone as an actress but with ample trying, I just couldn’t buy her as a romantic lead paired up with the 40 year-old, Bradley Cooper. She’s cute and perky with spunk. However, her look is that of a twinkle-eyed youngin. She’s the kid sister, the daughter, or the girl you wanna do arts and crafts with. The movie’s love story between her Allison and Cooper’s Brian is forced upon us, the audience. It pronounces Stoney as a romanticized, military liaison in the renown, most obvious way. Oh and when she boogies with Bill Murray at a party function (during the film’s midsection), it made me want to avoid listening to “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” for many years to come. Frightening.

    Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

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  • (Rating: ☆☆ out of 4)

    This film is not recommended.

    In brief: A trip to a tropical isle that is far from paradise.

    GRADE: C

    First, a short English lesson. A contronym is a word that can have an opposite meaning but placed in the correct context, that meaning becomes clear. As in: strike (to hit or to miss) or left (remained or departed) or as in Aloha (hello or goodbye) or Cameron Crowe’s latest romantic comedy. It really is the cheeriest of contradictions, a paradox onto itself, a conundrum. Which also sums up my opinion about this totally forgettable movie. Nothing becomes clear in this well-made but disappointing romantic comedy. The actors are misused in a meandering script that wastes the time and talents of all involved, including the moviegoing audience.

    All the stock characters are there, the roguish cynical anti-hero type named Brian Gilcrest (winningly played by Bradley Cooper), his former love interest, Tracy (Rachel MacAdams), and an undeniable idealistic new force of nature that enters his life, Alison Ng (Emma Stone). (This character also created a scandal of sorts in real life when controversy arose about the film’s whitewashed views of the Hawaiian heritage and the fact that a Caucasian actress was chosen to play the role of a native resident, shades of Miss Saigon. Let’s just say Ms. Stone is no Mickey Rooney either, fortunately. Her likability as an actress is there on the screen even if her credibility is sorely lacking. This miscasting throws the film off kilter and it never fully recovers.)

    Aloha’s thin plot involves big business and our military machine joining forces to take over sacred land for homeland security purposes with Brian selling his unethical soul as he tries to make this deal happen. All this while he is reconnecting with his former sweetheart and falling for another soulmate. These two storylines never gel or register any emotional interest.

    Crowe tries to set up realistic situations for his actors to explore, but it’s all played with far too many heavy-handed touches. Parts of the film do have their charm and the dialog has some clever moments. (Crowe has a talent for amusing conversations and pithy catch phrases such as in better films like Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire.) But in Aloha, everyone seems to be overly caffeinated in their break-paced delivery and quirky attitudes.

    Characters barely resemble real people, more like eccentrics brought together as plot devices to push the action along. The roster of supporting personalities includes a wise-beyond-his-years philosopher child who is into mysticism and filmmaking (Jaeden Lieberher), a rich businessman with ulterior motives (Bill Murray), a hot-tempered bully of a general (Alec Baldwin, typecast once again in a blustery role), an unfunny sidekick with nervous tics called Colonel “Fingers” Lacy (a dreadful Danny McBride), a literally silent soldier husband unable to express himself to his loving wife (John Krasinski, giving the film’s strongest performance), and an Hawaiian leader (actual nationalist, Dennis Bumpy Kanahele) whose t-shirt ‘Hawaiian by Birth / American by Force” sums up his entire character and the true serious theme for Crowe’s film which sadly gets lost amid the silly romantic entanglements.

    Crowe’s film is overstuffed with too many undeveloped sub-plots and characters that rarely make sense. They’re all strung together and just lei there (pardon the pun). The film wants to welcome its moviegoing audience with open arms; to be funny, loving, and warm all over. Yet there is an underlying desperate need to please, as when any tourist arrives on the island to its fanfare of insincere but beautifully staged welcomes. Aloha, unlike the actual word itself, can’t have it both ways.

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  • Aloha ostensibly centers around an emotionally damaged man who finds redemption thanks to that one great woman who believes in him. I say ostensibly because, unlike writer-director Cameron Crowe’s previous work, the narrative is so splintered, dispersed, and incoherent that who knows what Aloha is really about or what Crowe had in mind in the first place.

    Our man in plight is Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), who once believed in skies that promised a golden future. Slashed budgets force NASA to get in bed with billionaires, and the air force pilot hands in his wings to go to work as a defense contractor for the biggest billionaire of all, Carson Welch (Bill Murray). Gilcrest somehow misjudges one assignment and winds up wounded with almost two dozen broken bones and a limp as a souvenir. He’s given a second chance by Welch, who wants him to finesse a local Hawaiian leader into blessing a pedestrian gate that is pivotal to Welch’s realising his privatised space program.

    The local leader is played by Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, the independence movement leader and descendant of the country’s King Kamehameha. Wearing a T-shirt that reads “Hawaiian by Birth, American by Force,” he’s there to remind viewers and Gilcrest of the mainlander imperialism at play. There’s been a significant deal of pre-release criticism leveled against Crowe for his depiction of a homogenised Hawaii and for the casting of Emma Stone as Captain Allison Ng, who every so often shares that she is a quarter Hawaiian. To be fair, Aloha is not as culturally insensitive as one would be led to believe. Remember that this is a film set on a U.S. military base, so it would only be reasonable that hardly nary a native would be seen in that setting.

    Allison is more problematic, and not necessarily for the reasons one may think. Allison, with her belief in the island’s folklore, serves to better this “brilliant, compelling, commanding wreck of a guy.” The issue here is that Allison falls in love at seemingly first sight with Gilcrest and then spends the majority of the film like a mildly irritating dog nipping at his heels. Stone’s expressiveness, both emotionally and physically, is part and parcel of her appeal. She’s an oddball, goofy and adorable and hard not to love, but her playing of Allison (or Crowe’s direction of her performance) as some overly enthusiastic screwball is off the mark.

    Not that the rest of the cast fares any better. Cooper, blue-eyed and sun-kissed, is like a compass flailing to find true north. Rachel McAdams, whose natural resting state is to be gently seductive, seems mildly exasperated at being shoehorned into a situation that finds her character Tracy suddenly torn between former flame Gilcrest and Woody (John Krasinski), her husband of 13 years who is so distant and uncommunicative that he may as well be mute. Crowe has somehow managed to neuter his entire cast. No small feat considering that talented cast includes Alec Baldwin, who is a pretty tough elephant to tranquilise.

    For a man whose wordsmanship is his bread and butter, Crowe stumbles – at times shockingly so – with the dialogue, which contains more clunkers than all his previous films combined. Crowe’s words disintegrate as they are being spoken – they hold no weight, they spark no interest, they carry no insight. They simply do not connect.

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  • There was a time when Cameron Crowe actually knew how to make good movies but ever since he won an Oscar for Almost Famous he seems to have lost his groove. Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown and We Bought A Zoo were all disappointments but Aloha is perhaps the biggest misfire of Crowe’s career and there were times in this movie when I was asking myself if the guy who wrote movies like Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous actually wrote this thing.

    While on assignment in Oahu, Hawaii, military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) reconnects with his old flame Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams), now married to an Air Force recruit (John Krasinski). He also spends time with Allison Ng (Emma Stone), a hard-nosed fighter pilot who watches every move that he makes. As they travel throughout the lush terrain, Brian finds himself falling for his feisty guide, while his conversations with Tracy may provide a shocking revelation from their past.

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