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Dir: Cameron Crowe
Written by: Cameron Crowe
Produced by: Eli Bush, Cameron Crowe, Andy Fischer, Ilona Herzberg, Robert Huberman, Scott Robertson, Scott Rudin, Jason Sack, Ben Waisbren.
Currently Playing at: Aksarben Cinema, AMC Star Council Bluffs 17, Marcus Midtown Cinema, AMC Westroads 14, Marcus Twin Creek Cinema, Regal Omaha Stadium 16.
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin.
Cameron Crowe has made some fantastic films in the past. ALMOST FAMOUS is a masterpiece, and JERRY MAGUIRE doesn't hold up in some regards but is still an entertaining enough flick. His past makes ALOHA all the more baffling. You sit there watching the movie thinking that this guy really should know better. Its convoluted, its cliched, and it is so misguided in so many ways. AGE OF ULTRON had less going on than ALOHA.
The film starts out with Brian Gilchrest (Bradley Cooper) returning to Hawaii to work for his old boss (Bill Murray) after one of his contracting jobs went badly, resulting in him having gone missing for a period of time. A liaison (Emma Stone, more on her in a moment) is assigned to him and they begin to strike up a relationship. Meanwhile his ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) is having marital problems with her husband (John Krasinski) who has trouble communicating. Meanwhile it turns out that Bill Murray wants to launch nukes into space, meaning yes, ALOHA has Bill Murray playing what is essentially a super-villain. It is such a weird casting choice and he doesn't really work, but that is no fault of his own (more on the acting in the next paragraph). MEANWHILE the Hawaiians are concerned that the Americans moving in are beginning to destroy their culture (a plot thread that was handled much better in 2011's THE DESCENDANTS).
So, the acting. ALOHA has an excellent cast, and really they make the best of this convoluted script. Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone have a lot of chemistry together, Cooper gets in trouble now and again for frequently being cast opposite love interests who are at least 10 years his junior, but the thing is, looks do matter in instance like this. Yeah, he's a 40 year old man now, but not a lot of 40 year old men look like Bradley Cooper. Rachel McAdams and John Krasinski could be cut from this movie entirely, but with some rewrites of the script and a lot of cutting, a good film could be made around their marital problems. This is do to the fact that both actors offer very heartfelt performances. Bill Murray, unfortunately it seems like he's just there to pick up a paycheck, if there's any actor in this movie who seems like he knows how bad this script is, Bill Murray is the one. Crowe uses Alec Baldwin wisely, predominately in scenes that involve him hurling insults, its an oddly specific talent, but Baldwin has perfected it. His is probably the best scene in the movie, although you see 90% of it in the trailer.
On to Emma Stone. She has been cast as woman who is a quarter Chinese, and a quarter Hawaiian. This has drawn some criticisms that the film has been whitewashed (the character's also supposed to be one-half Swedish, but that gets conveniently swept under the rug). Here's the thing, yes, Crowe could have easily cast a Hawaiian actress in that role and if anything it would have improved the movie. But Stone's performance is not bad, and even if a Hawaiian actress had played the role, ALOHA still would have not been that good. What I liked about Stone's turn in this role is her optimism, she comes off as genuine about her love of the culture and her expressive face lends a lot of emotion to the role, a lot of creedence. She is not well-utilized at the end of the day though, this just happens to be an instance were controversy was drawn to a role and the movie happened to be garbage anyway.
My problems with this plot began near the beginning when Bradley Cooper wiretaps Stone's characters room and is listening in on the conversation she is having with her mother. This is far creepier than it seems, replace Bradley Cooper with Steve Buscemi and it could be a scene from a thriller. Crowe doesn't understand that people don't do that and plays it off as cute. There are so many ways Stone and Cooper's relationship could have been developed and Crowe literally picks the worst one.
Then there are the parts with Rachel McAdams and John Krasinski that I mentioned earlier. Like the rest of the cast, they are both wonderful actors, but their plot thread is so detached from the rest of the movie. It serves little purpose aside from giving an end of movie reveal to Bradley Cooper. ALOHA is basically an entire TV series crammed into one 2 hour movie, and as such Krasinski and McAdams are horribly underdeveloped. Their characters could have been cut altogether or been the focus of their own, separate film.
The structure of ALOHA is written like INCEPTION. The information the movie has is not presented in chronological order, its told in bits in pieces. The thing is, ALOHA did not set out to be a David Lynch movie, it set out to be a charming romantic comedy. This is not written in a way where it seems like Crowe is taking risks, its not something he's experimenting with, I honestly couldn't tell you what he was thinking. The way he writes the events in this film is confusing, it is so hard to follow.
Even if ALOHA just cut out the subplots and stuck with its main plot, it still wouldn't be very good. This is because the main conflict revolves around whether or not Bradley Cooper will sabotage a multi-million dollar missile launch...for a girl. I realize the film offers the reason that Cooper has suddenly had a revelation and is going to do the right thing, but this movie has not earned that, because Cooper behaves like a jerk for 60-70% of the film.
Its weird how good this cast is, particularly Stone. She employs the same sunny personality that made her a delight in films like ZOMBIELAND, EASY A, and THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN (all better movies than this). Its weird watching her because you want her to be in a better movie, but she just isn't. Cooper and McAdams do good work as well, but you can't help but suspect that in the back of their heads Cooper was thinking about how to get his passion project ADAM JONES off the ground, and McAdams was trying memorize her lines for the second season of TRUE DETECTIVE. Alec Baldwin seems like he's just there to insult people (he does love doing that).
ALOHA is a baffling disappointment. Its not the worst film I've seen so far this year, PAUL BLART was a tougher sit, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 was a rougher sit, but its easily the most depressing. Its easily the biggest waste of potential. I don't know what's wrong with Cameron Crowe. I don't know why he's off his game, but he needs to get back on the ball. I was hoping that the film would be accessible despite the negative press its gotten, despite the leaked emails from Sony that show Crowe butting heads with the studios, but Amy Pascal's emails were basically dead-on. I can't even recommend the film as a rental.