Not one of Crowe’s finest

by Steve Pulaski

Aloha is the classic example of a film that bites off so much more than it can chew that it begins to choke early and all we can do is passively witness its inevitable cardiac arrest. The film takes elements from the romantic comedy, science-fiction, family drama, and comedy genres, but never finds a way to mesh them all into a package that’s worth opening. As a result, what unfolds is a hybrid of pale plot-threads and exhausting scenarios that stretch the line of credulity ever-so thin that it becomes impossible to sympathize with the characters and believe their scenarios in any respect.

What a shame too because this film squanders the screenwriting and directorial talents of Cameron Crowe, along with actors like Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Alec Baldwin, Rachel McAdams, and Danny McBride, all of whom have proven themselves to be hugely commendable presences in a wide variety of roles. With Aloha, we focus on Cooper’s Brian Gilcrest, a failed defense contractor, who is assigned to oversee the launch of a weapons satellite from Hawaii. This assignment comes with a potential precedent to militarize space, along with convincing Hawaiian natives that this launch would be beneficial for them in the long-run (in what way, I’m still trying to figure out). All of this is designed to benefit a multimillionaire named Carson Welch (Bill Murray in a role so empty that even he looks half asleep most of the time).

Written & Directed by
Cameron Crowe
Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone
Release Date
29 May 2015
Steve’s Grade: D

Gilcrest is assigned to work with Allison Ng (Emma Stone), an Air Force pilot, in Hawaii for the meantime. Allison’s energetic, often spunky personality gets under the skin of Gilcrest, a hardened cynic, who is also trying to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who is now married to John (John Krasinski) with two kids. John is a cartoon of a character, never speaking in the presence of Brian and only exchanging ambiguous facial expressions and brotherly gestures (which take an explicitly corny turn at the very end of the film). As the inevitable, cosmic forces would have it, however, eventually, Gilcrest takes a liking to Allison despite their personality differences, but his shady, workaholic tendencies will inevitably rub her the wrong way during the time of this crucial space launch that will leave them both “steamrolled by the future” as Gilcrest puts it.

Explaining the juxtaposition of this brewing romance and this rocket launch into space is no easy task. Crowe seems dedicated to making two unrelated things connect in the most hackneyed way imaginable. Even when we are focused on the human characters, there’s little human interest to pull us into their lives. Both Gilcrest and Allison speak like characters in a movie, always ready with a quip or some sort of slyly funny remark; never does Crowe penetrate the heart of this relationship, and instead, settles for digging holes around it hoping to strike something that will pull us, the audience, inwards.

This, however, never comes to fruition. I felt like I was always sitting within arms length of Aloha, its incredulous situations, and its characters. The screen was several rows before me, and yet, no connection was ever formed. For as many characters, situations, and circumstances lie within this film’s screenplay, this is a shockingly boring project, laboriously paced and only adequately acted, given there’s no real challenging role for the talent here to sink into. The film persists on with a cloying sense of tone-deafness to the impossibility of its own situations that it treads Nicolas Sparks territory (although I say with a slight quiver in my voice that I liked The Longest Ride a tad more than this).

Crowe’s last film was We Bought a Zoo, which, like Aloha, had its share of emotionally manipulative elements. However, it was also a tad more watchable and light-hearted than this, and certainly a bit easier to believe in terms of its circumstances. With Aloha, we see Crowe test the very boundaries of love on an intergalactic scale, and after several films that have even questionably undermined his greatest achievements like Almost Famous and Say Anything…, maybe it’s time for him to come back to Earth, wouldn’t you say?