Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: Aloha

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.
"Aloha" is scattershot and tries to cover too many stories at once and, yes, it is the weakest film in Cameron Crowe's oeuvre, but it's not as bad as you might have heard.

Much like his previous pictures, Crowe's latest is loaded to the brim with great music - and also, unfortunately, the type of speechmaking that worked much better in the filmmaker's earlier works. Every time a character enters a room in "Aloha," they don't speak so much as launch into soliloquies.

In the film, Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a military guy who spent some time in the Middle East and is now working for a "civilian" named Carson Welch (Bill Murray), whose rocket launch into space from Hawaii, where the film is set, may include some nefarious intentions. We are told on more than one occasion that Gilcrest was "brilliant" and the best in his field, but it's a bit unclear what exactly he did or does.

His trip to the island state leads to romantic entanglements, which include coming to terms with an old flame (Rachel McAdams) being happily married (to John Krasinski, a military pilot) with two kids as well as getting mixed up with a no-nonsense - yes, I don't like that term that much, but it best describes the character - military chaperone named Allison Ng (Emma Stone).

The latter of the two talks a mile a minute and spouts dialogue that stretches the limits to which most would extend their disbelief - and yet, Stone sort of steals the show here, not because her character is that well thought-out, but because she puts so much energy into it. You have to admire the commitment.

Rounding out the cast are Alec Baldwin as a stern military commander and Danny McBride as a punch line generating military figure. McBride does his best with the short amount of time that his character is on screen.

"Aloha" is not only a romantic comedy, but it's also one of Crowe's grown-up-men-growing-up chronicles in the vein of "Jerry Maguire." You know, a guy who has not quite reached his potential finds the ability to do so by getting others to believe in him. There's also a subplot about the military industrial complex and another involving native Hawaiians getting displaced and yet another about some troubles between McAdams and Krasinki's characters. In other words, "Aloha" is too overstuffed.

So, yes, the film is my least favorite of Crowe's thus far. But it's not that bad. There are some nice moments between Cooper's character and McAdams's young son. And we get to see Murray and Stone cut the rug to Hall and Oates. And most of the music, although a bit in abundance, is well chosen.

I always root for a Crowe film. "Say Anything" remains one of the absolute best films about youth that I've seen. "Jerry Maguire" is a very good character piece with terrific writing and "Vanilla Sky" is woefully underrated in my estimation. And, of course, "Almost Famous" is, in my opinion, his greatest film - a picture that not only meant something particular to me at a specific point in my life, but also one of the 10 best movies of the previous decade. So, if "Aloha" is a stumble, it's not an enormous one. It's a minor Crowe picture and, hopefully, just a blip before he makes another film that is much better.

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