Cameron Crowe’s Aloha further marks a trip down mediocrity lane for a filmmaker that has graced us with Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. For me, his last worthy effort was 2001’s Vanilla Sky, which occasionally lacked focus but its merits outweighed its demerits. The same cannot be said for everything in Crowe’s oeuvre that’s followed – Elizabethtown, We Bought a Zoo and now this. Aloha is a strange mix of romance, comedy, drama, Hawaiian mysticism and corporate and military industrialism that never feels cohesive. The various aspects of the screenplay never quite gel. The casting decisions, packed with top notch talent, are a mixed bag. There are moments that remind us of Crowe’s greatness, but not many.
Bradley Cooper stars as Brian, a defense contractor who travels to Hawaii to assist a billionaire business mogul (a subdued Bill Murray) on a shady deal. Emma Stone is Allison Ng, the Air Force pilot whose task it is to assist him and, of course, fall for him. Rachel McAdams is Brian’s “one that got away”, an old flame now married to John Krasinki’s strong and very silent service officer. We jump back and forth wondering which woman Brian will try to end up with. Crowe’s screenplay keeps us busy with not only the romance angle but our central character’s occupational hazards with Murray and Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride’s military personnel roles. There’s a lot of plot happening here coupled with many stories of Hawaiin lore. Simply put, it never really comes together in satisfactory fashion.
I appreciated Krasinski’s work and his non talking nature allows for some humorous moments. Yet there isn’t a performance here for any of the famous faces matching their best work. It’s when Crowe allows his performers to be quiet for a moment that shine, like Murray and Stone dancing to Hall and Oates in a nicely constructed sequence. As good as Stone can be and usually is, she’s miscast here and her part is not written well (her explained Chinese and Hawaiian heritage feels a bit stretched).
We get the family drama involved with Brian and the McAdams clan that we see from a mile away mixed with his involvement with Ng and then back to Murray’s increasingly nefarious corporate magnet. It switches so much that it never allows us to care much about any of it. Cameron Crowe’s lesser work still provides glimpses of his unique voice in cinema. Over the last decade, those moments are becoming more and more sparse and there’s not enough gorgeous scenery of our 49th state to make up for it.
** (out of four)