REVIEW: Aloha

19 06 2015

Aloha posterResponding to the reactions to a film in a review is something I generally frown upon; however, I am willing to make an exception in the case of “Aloha.”  Before Sony could release any trailers or marketing materials, studio head Amy Pascal’s scathing comments about Cameron Crowe’s film hit the Internet and sealed its fate.  The film said the “goodbye” aloha before it could say the “hello” aloha.  And then, once the critics finally got ahold of the final product, the nail was in the coffin.

So when I finally got around to seeing “Aloha,” I came with unavoidably low expectations.  I did not seek to answer the question of whether it was good or bad; I just needed to know how bad.  Watching a film in that mindset makes for an entirely different experience, akin to being a child in a doctor’s office waiting for a shot with eyes clenched shut.  You know the pain will come soon but are clueless as to when.

I kept waiting for “Aloha” to come apart at the seams.  Maybe the relationship between paramilitary contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) and his spunky Air Force escort Allison Ng (Emma Stone, unconvincingly playing part-Asian) would just become a little too far-fetched.  Or perhaps Brian would wreck the marriage of his ex-flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams), leaving the life she built with her kids and husband Woody (John Krasinski) in shambles and destroying all sympathy for the characters.  Any number of plot points, from the relations with native Hawaiian tribes to an odd space mission, could easily have gone south.

Yet, against the odds, “Aloha” manages to survive its shortcomings and remain a mostly enjoyable time at the movies.  Sure, the script could have benefitted from some retooled dialogue, a few reordered or rewritten scenes for the sake of clarity, and a narrower narrative scope.  As is, though, Crowe has the basis for a charming – but not disarming – romance with a superfluous side helping of story critiquing the military-industrial complex.

Aloha

Crowe falls victim to his own ambitions to do and say more; in order to do each storyline in “Aloha” justice, the film would need to run close to three hours.  The purity of heart and conscience he can so movingly articulate in films like “Almost Famous” just gets choked by the convolution of the narrative.  Even though his latest tapestry comes out unevenly stitched, his message is still discernible: be cynical about institutions and optimistic about people.

Luckily for Crowe, he gets to work with a phenomenal cast that can elevate the material by disguising some of its flaws with their irresistible magnetism.  Cooper, Stone, McAdams, and Krasinski hardly turn in career-best performances in “Aloha,” but their presence lends the film an undeniable aura of warmth and humanity.  Where Crowe’s writing lacks its usual dimensionality, these actors add their own personality.

This goes double for John Krasinski, who plays an essentially mute “strong, silent type” that feels like a parody of Ryan Gosling in a Nicolas Winding Refn film.  What could easily have devolved into a one-note character becomes the richest personality on screen.  (Chalk that up to nine years of communicating through offhanded glances in “The Office.”)  And in a movie that features Bill Murray in a supporting role, that says something.

While “Aloha” might not have much to say, I think its reputation may make some gains over the years.  Heck, it could even benefit from being chopped apart in a TV edit on basic cable.  With the additional time of a commercial break to connect the dots that Crowe’s script does so quickly and tenuously, the story might actually flow better.  This would not solve the confusing questions lingering about the strange spaceship, though it would allow for the film to be savored in Crowe’s favored unit of emotional measurement: the moment.  B / 2halfstars

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2 responses

21 06 2015
ninvoid99

You’re too kind to this piece of shit. I fucking loathed it. I love Cameron Crowe but this is his worst film to date and someone needs to tell him to stop using music to drive the film. You don’t need it all the fucking time.

21 06 2015
Marshall

Comments like that are what made me think it wasn’t so bad, haha

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