Aloha is a strange rom com that really felt like it could have worked. Actually, it should have worked, but it didn’t. Directed by Cameron Crowe, beloved for such classics as Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, it’s an ensemble piece that never really assembles.
Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a successful but morally corrupt military contractor who returns to Hawaii to help a millionaire entrepreneur (Bill Murray) launch an independently owned satellite with largely unknown purposes. Here he’s forced to confront much of his past, including his ex girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) who is now married with children. The military assigns a by-the-book lieutenant (Emma Stone) to watch over Gilcrest, but of course the two are far too attractive to not end up in bed together. The set up is all very messy and confusing, but about halfway through it briefly finds a nice balance and groove before wrapping everything up a little too neatly.
The entire film ultimately feels like it was brewed in a lab by a couple producers and some test audiences.
“Who’s the biggest leading man right now?”
“Bradley Cooper can seem to do no wrong.”
“Who do we want to see as his romantic interest?”
“Um… Rachel McAdams? Emma Stone?”
“We’ll get them both!”
“Okay, now we need some funny sidekicks… someone the young people will like, what’s that guy’s name from Eastbound and Down?”
“Yes, get him, he’s hilarious (he really is). Now some old guard to add some prestige. Alec Baldwin is a buddy of mine so he’s in… does anyone know Bill Murray?”
“Murray is spending the year in Hawaii, he’ll only do it if we shoot there.”
“Perfect! People love Hawaii, now all the pretty people’s tans will make more sense. You, 45 year old woman, what’s your favourite romantic comedy? Jerry Maguire eh? Someone get me Cameron Crowe on the phone.”
“Oooh, can we have a scene where Bill Murray dances with Emma Stone?”
“I’d just really like to see that.”
And while the part where Murray and Stone dance is a treat, it has nothing to do with what else is happening in the scene and is clearly there as a crowd pleaser. Apparently Cameron Crowe has been working on this for a few years, so it probably didn’t really come together as I imagined, but that’s certainly how it felt. A lot of those popular ingredients do work in the film’s favour. The cast is excellent, you buy Cooper as a guy who can have everything, screw it all up and still manage to get it back. Stone and McAdams are charming as always and Murray, McBride and Baldwin get some genuinely funny moments. Even John Krasinski, who plays McAdams’ husband, adds to the film’s overall likability, it’s just too bad about the script.
Crowe first gained notoriety by posing as a high school student to write a script that eventually became Fast Times At Ridgemont High. He plugged himself into a community and produced something that resonated with youth. Granted that was a very different film made in a very different time, but I can’t help but think Crowe has lost touch with both his subjects and audience. Brian Gilcrest is supposed to be a complicated, private, shut off person, yet, like most the people in this movie, he doesn’t seem to have any problem coming right out with what he’s thinking, feeling, and why he’s the way he is. There is very little that’s nuanced about this film as all the characters are extremely forthcoming with all the information we need to understand exactly how we’re supposed to feel about them. The best scenes are the ‘man chats’ between Cooper and Krasinski’s characters, where not a word of dialogue is exchanged. Their looks are supposed to convey an unspoken understanding, but we’re still filled into what they mean through use of subtitles or an explanation given after the fact. Crowe should have taken a cue from these scenes for the rest of the script and realized that sometimes less is more.