Review: Aloha (2015)


Hey they used the old film studio logos and fanfares – that probably means something, right? A lot in ALOHA probably means something, but I’ll be damned if I can puzzle out what Cameron Crowe wanted his movie to say, or to be.

Returning to Hawaii after a decade, famed military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is asked to oversee a land blessing before it is developed into a valuable space launch site for his employer. His government handlers may have other plans, and Brian must also contend with affairs of the heart – his re-married ex Tracy (Rachel McAdams) and his spunky airforce guide Allison (Emma Stone). 

What would possess you to write into your script that Emma Stone is 1/4 Hawaiian and 1/4 Chinese when she so obviously isn’t? If the characters in this film don’t seem to believe it (and they don’t) then how are we meant to? Allison doesn’t need a reason to get all weepy when the native Hawaiians do something traditional to their culture. Giving a character a mixed heritage doesn’t automatically make them a more rounded or compelling character if they are still lazily written and inappropriately cast.

Every conversation in Aloha is needlessly quirky, full of tics and affectations and trying so hard to be cute. This is probably to cover up for the fact that most of the film is so clumsy and disjointed and not all that interesting. Crowe is just trying too hard to be liked, long gone are the ALMOST FAMOUS days when he was charming and perceptive.

Crowe has come up with a really unimaginative future where NASA, the military and telecoms companies have blended into one capitalist amoral mass. It allows for about as much excitement as you’d expect, with characters often engaging in contract discussions that sound very much like they’re on the phone to their own internet providers. When the dialogue doesn’t lull you to sleep and tries to be clever it fails to say anything about our world today or where it is heading. Yes people use technology a lot in their daily lives and we aren’t reaching for the stars the way we used to – and?

I really don’t get this film’s take on Hawaiian culture. Crowe probably intended to be respectful but comes across as more patronising. Cooper’s character is the audience surrogate who offhandedly insists he knows all about the local customs but in reality has very little respect for them. Crowe is judging us by expecting us to identify with Brian despite the fact that he’s an arrogant and abrasive toolbox. Crowe wants us to know how sensitive and culturally aware he is and is prepared to deliver his knowledge like a sugar enema with Stone going “wow” or commenting on how touched she is by taking part in local customs every few minutes.

There’s actually a scene where Allison appears to be getting a kick out of Brian describing how he has been shot multiple times. Then she has sex with him seemingly just because he survived and that’s spiritual…or something. Maybe give this scene another pass at the scripting stage?

The sight Bill Murray doing an awkward dancefloor shuffle with Emma Stone and Alec Baldwin shouting really loud is not worth the price of admission. Murray and Baldwin might as well have not have not shown up at all as they only have a couple of scenes apiece that don’t add anything of real note to the story. Both of their characters’ contributions to the overall plot could have been achieved offscreen.

McAdams and John Krasinski both appear to be starting in a different, and much better, relationship drama to everyone else, but they don’t get enough time to elevate the rest of the film. There is one well thought out moment that hints at the Crowe of the past, with two guys sharing a silent moment with meaningful looks, their looks subtitled amusingly for the audience’s benefit.

When all’s said and done, why should I care? I don’t care enough to be offended, or even to be annoyed. I’m just permanently disinterested watching Aloha. Did I mention it’s really boring? SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

Writer and film fanatic fond of black comedies, sci-fi, animation and films about dysfunctional families.
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