Posted May 31, 2015 by Daniel Hodgson in
Hawaii creates a beautiful backdrop for a love story, but the plot goes off in a different direction than the film’s intentions as a romance.
From what I’ve seen of Cameron Crowe’s films, I can say he’s a good director, but not consistently so. However, after We Bought a Zoo and now Aloha, I’ll be putting off catching up on Elizabethtown and Vanilla Sky for a while longer. I’ve made the same comment about Spike Lee, but if you write enough of these, inevitably, you’ll repeat yourself.
Bradley Cooper stars as Brian Gilcrest, a private contractor who returns to Hawaii to negotiate with Dennis “Bumpy” Pu‘uhonua Kanahele, the real-life leader of The Nation of Hawaii, played by himself. Gilcrest works for Carson Welch (Bill Murray), a telecommunications magnate, who wants to put a satellite into space, but needs Bumpy’s permission via a blessing ceremony, I think.
The details of the negotiation are confusing, but unimportant. What Aloha is really about is, who will Bradley Cooper end up with, Rachel McAdams, or Emma Stone?
McAdams portrays Tracy, Brian’s ex-girlfriend, who is now married with two children, ages 10 and 12. Brian and Tracy broke up 13 years ago. Do the math, and a revelation late in the plot comes as no surprise.
Stone portrays Captain Alison Ng, an enthusiastic fighter pilot who’s charged with escorting Brian. Ng’s nationality is useful in the negotiations, given that she’s quarter Hawaiian. Uh-huh. Sure she is.
Stone does not look remotely Hawaiian (or Chinese, which she’s also supposed to be). This is problematic considering how often her ethnicity is mentioned, and how significant it is to the plot. Ng speaks the native language, knows and believes in local lore, but Stone herself is white as mayonnaise. The casting does not work at all.
Don’t get me wrong, Stone is a charming screen presence, and a talented, attractive actress. She’s one of the few things Aloha has going for it, while not belonging to the role at all.
Stone was obviously cast because 1) her considerable star power brings box office 2) the success of Silver Linings Playbook suggests that audiences like seeing late 30’s Cooper (now age 40) with early twenty-something girls. What, was Shailene Woodley not available?
Stone’s casting says something about this production, that it is more interested in maximizing its profit for the studio than being true to its sentiments, something a romance cannot do.
For a romance, the plot is bizarre. Bumpy is afraid that the government will put a weapon on board the satellite a la 1980’s Star Wars program. Ng assures him that that won’t happen. Guess what really happens. Aloha has the elements of a James Bond movie: there’s a pair of sexy women, a crazed villain, and a super weapon. Hawaii makes for a beautiful backdrop for a love story, but the plot goes off in a different direction than the film’s intentions as a romance.
As far as love stories go, it only half works, which is to say it doesn’t work at all. Ng is radiant, but the more you learn about Brian, the less you like him. Ng deserves better, Manic Pixie Dream Girl that she is. I know that term has been retired by others, but I’m going to use it. If the shoe fits…
Penny Lane from Almost Famous was an MPDG. Claire Colburn is completely famous as the first character to be dubbed the MPDG. And now we have Ng, who exists to cure Brian of his cynicism, and teach him to embrace the possibility that there is something mystical in the winds of Hawaii. Uh-huh. As a writer, Crowe is recycling himself. But like I said, that will happen after you’ve written enough.
This movie is fluff. Touches of humor make it almost bearable, but Aloha is no Say Anything… 2 stars out of 5.