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Aloha Means Hello And Goodbye

Updated on November 26, 2015

Brian Gilcrest Is a man seeking redemption in the movie Aloha. Brian (Bradley Cooper) had been an Air Force officer who was badly wounded while serving in Afghanistan. Once he healed and left the military, Brian went to work as a contractor for Carson Welch (Bill Murray), a billionaire communications mogul who's working with the Air Force to launch a spy satellite from Hawaii. His main assignment is to arrange a blessing related to the launch. Since Brian had gained a notoriety during his stint, the Air Force assigns Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone) to act as a watchdog for Brian. She also acts as a liaison between Brian and the native Hawaiians they want to do their blessing. They manage an arrangement of land and free cell phone service. Ng, who herself has Hawaiian heritage, even assures the natives the launch will serve peaceful purposes.

Brian, because of his past, has to face past issues - and at the base he once called home. His old military acquaintances, General Dixon (Alec Baldwin) and Colonel Cody (Danny McBride), are happy to see him again, but Dixon worries if the old Brian will reveal himself. Brian also catches up to his old girlfriend, Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams), who's an Air Force wife in charge of base ceremonies. She's the mother of two and married to John "Woody" Woodside (John Krasinski), an Air Force flier stationed at the base. Inviting Brian and Allison to dinner brings tension between husband and wife, who later explains why she's with Woody, and not with him. He understands, and starts to find the civilian Allison is very engaging. Meanwhile, Welch sends Brian some top secret instructions about the launch. Ng learns there's more to the launch when, on a trip to thank Tracy for dinner, she sees some film that her son, Mitch (Jaeden Lieberher) had taken at the base with his video camera.

Aloha is an engaging, though lightweight, look at a man looking to make a mark for himself again from writer-director Cameron Crowe. Part of the film seems to have been inspired by the movie and print versions of The Descendants, where a man has to make some difficult decisions and keep all sides pleased - especially the island's natives - with the outcome. Brian's overt mission may seem simple, but Carson and his money take the simplicity from it. Brian, once a career-driven person, gets reminders of what he could have had if he'd made time for her. Even though Brian was once like Allison, he gets annoyed by her gung-ho attitude. That changes when he sees her behavior out of uniform. When she learns of Welch's hidden agenda, she wonders if civilian life has changed Brian at all. Aloha is Crowe at his most predictable, but even these rather ordinary characters are appealing.

Stone, by appearance, does not look like someone who's either Asian or Hawaiian - and that's the way Crowe wrote her character. Her performance as the unclearly multiracial Allison gives Aloha its best moments. Her military work is a passion, as is the appreciation of her native land. Stone shows Allison can be just as determined to be a good watchdog as she can be worried about the deal between the Air Force and Welch. As this happens, she starts to be attracted to Brian, who may be helping his boss. Cooper is very good as Brian, a man who needs to prove he can still be an effective team player. He took big risks as a military man, and soon finds new big risks come working in the private sector. During his work there, he needs to show he has changed from the risk taker he once was, and show he cares for Allison, Tracy, and others he meets. He once cared about the world before opportunity consumed him, and he is trying to find his way back there. I especially like his silent chat with Woody (which is subtitled) to make sure where these men stand with one another. Murray gives the best supporting performance as Welch, a man who uses his wealth to try to own the skies and everyone his money helps. I also liked Krasinski as the strong and silent Woody.

Aloha is a film that, as its title suggests, says goodbye to a young opportunist and hello to a different kind of opportunist. Brian Gilcrest could have died in Afghanistan, but he paid a price of sorts by not dying. Some, including the officers who knew him when he wore the uniform, still trust him as he works to forge a productive relationship between his boss, his old bosses, and the islanders who will be affected in the deal. Aloha shows a man trying to strike the right deal for everybody, and proving his trust is well deserved.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Aloha three stars. Will Aloha mean hello, or good riddance?


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