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Review: Aloha (2015)

Aloha (2015)

Directed by: Cameron Crowe

Premise: A military contractor (Bradley Cooper) arrives in Hawaii to finalize plans for the construction of an aviation facility. While making a land deal with the natives, he reconnects with a former love (Rachel McAdams) and falls for an Air Force pilot (Emma Stone).

What Works: There is a lot wrong with Aloha but the many faults of this movie should not be assigned to the actors. The core cast do the best job they can with some pretty wretched material. Bradley Cooper’s character finds himself in a love triangle between his former flame, played by Rachel McAdams, and a spunky Air Force pilot played by Emma Stone. Cooper and McAdams mostly accomplish what the script fails to do, which is to give their characters a convincing history and add a subdued layer of hurt beneath the surface of their scenes. Emma Stone provides the most enjoyable performance in the movie. While Stone is not especially convincing as a fighter pilot, she does inject a lot of energy and earnestness into the picture and Aloha is most tolerable when she is on screen.

What Doesn’t: Just about everything in Aloha is disastrous. Its failure is stunning both as a release from a major Hollywood studio and as the work of Cameron Crowe, an experienced director who has made great movies like Say Anything and Almost Famous. The failure of Aloha is so breathtaking because the mistakes in it are so elementary. The movie plays like it was written and directed by someone who had never made a feature film before. The script makes no sense. Aloha opens with all of the central characters arriving at an airfield but the filmmakers don’t establish basic expository information. It’s unclear who these people are, how they related to one another, or what they are trying to do. As the story proceeds this is never amended and the movie unspools without a purpose. There is some vaguely defined goal; Bradley Cooper’s character works on behalf of a billionaire telecommunications mogul (Bill Murray) in order to break ground on a new aviation complex. For some reason that involves launching a satellite into space and for some other unexplained reason launching the satellite is controversial. There is no way to make heads or tails of what’s going on here because nothing is ever adequately explained. As a result, Aloha is a random series of events that bear no relationship to one another. This is clearest in the climax in which Cooper’s character must make a critical choice by doing something technical with the satellite (although what he’s doing doesn’t make sense) and nothing is at stake. The filmmakers botch this even further in the denouement which reverses and undermines the heroic sacrifice of Cooper’s character. The shapelessness of Aloha’s narrative seeps into individual scenes. Virtually every sequence in Aloha is poorly staged. Sequences rarely accomplish anything; the actors talk in forced dramatic platitudes but nothing gets accomplished either in terms of character or plot. Many scenes are also clumsily assembled. The editing is terrible with the screen direction not fitting together. The characters of Aloha don’t behave like credible human beings. Dialogue is awkwardly written and despite the best efforts of the cast, the actors are clearly fumbling through much of the movie. This is most obvious when John Krasinski’s character walks out on his family and the kids don’t even bat an eye over the loss of their father. Aloha tries to make use of Hawaiian culture to give the movie some kind of spiritual significance but the tone is all wrong and the mythology doesn’t relate to anything else. The movie even fails in its use of music. The placement of songs has usually been a strength of Cameron Crowe’s movies but in Aloha the music selection is frequently odd with the songs hitting the subtext on the nose.

Bottom Line: Aloha is a train wreck of a motion picture. It fails in virtually every facet of feature filmmaking. Director Cameron Crowe has sometimes been criticized for his sentimentality but here he proves unable to even execute a coherent series of shots.

Episode: #545 (June 7, 2015)