Cameron Crowe’s Aloha is, by all accounts, a disaster. First off, the script has been kicked around since 2008, so it’s full of post-Elizabethtown stank. In addition, it’s being torn apart by native Hawaiians, the indigenous peoples that the film supposedly celebrates. To top it all off, executives from the studio itself has been openly shown bashing it back during that whole little snafu Sony had back in December. However, “disaster” seems like an inaccurate term to use for this film, in that disasters are at least interesting. Aloha is two hours of nothingness, Aloha is the color taupe stretched to feature-length while Cameron Crowe’s Spotify account plays on shuffle in the background. It literally may as well be blank canvas for all it accomplishes.
Ordinarily, I try not to devote more than one paragraph to describing the plot of a movie, but Aloha’s storyline is so stupidly convoluted and ridiculous that I just have to go through the entire thing. The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Cameron Crowe’s Aloha because who gives a fuck, it’s Cameron Crowe’s Aloha.
Our story follows Brian Gilchrest (Bradley Cooper), a defense contractor and former Air Force hot-shot who is looking to get back in the game after screwing up a major deal in Kabul that nearly killed him. This is mentioned by literally everyone that Brian encounters, but is only explained in about ten seconds of film. (Stay with me here) In order to win the favor of his old boss, Carson Welch (Bill Murray), Brian is sent to Hawaii to broker a deal with the natives that will allow… two military bases to merge, and for that they need a new gate? And the planned spot for the gate is on a Native Hawaiian burial ground, and that just gets entirely glossed over, but whatever. They need permission from the Native King to do a thing which will lead to another thing which will eventually allow Bill Murray to launch a private satellite into space. Stay with me here, because this is only one of Aloha’s many sideplots.
Brian’s government liaison here is a hard-nosed young Air Force pilot named Alison Ng, played here by an Asian actress, right? There’s no way you would cast someone like Emma Stone to play a character named “Ng”, and you certainly wouldn’t have her clumsily try to explain her heritage over and over. (They do, and she does.) As Alison tries to get closer to Brian and cut through his cynicism, Brian re-connects with his old girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who is now married to another pilot whose entire characterization is that he doesn’t talk much (John Krasinski). As if this wasn’t enough story, Alison and Brian’s relationship is endangered roughly 12 hours after it begins because she starts to suspect – STAY THE FUCK WITH ME HERE – that Carson Welch is loading his private satellite with a nuclear weapon.
Yes, This romantic comedy just throws in a sovereign citizen-libertarian Bond Villain for no reason and has Bill Murray in that role. This is the tragic misunderstanding which tears our romantic leads apart. And in the end, Brian is called in to protect the launch from attack by Chinese hackers despite the fact that he has not been shown to have any cyber skills whatsoever to this point. He then decides to take the opportunity to destroy the weaponized satellite. He does this not because it’s dangerous for the entire world, but because it would make Officially-Asian-Emma-Stone sad or something. Now – if you haven’t already left, seriously stay with me here – he accomplishes this by convincing a friend we’ve never seen before to hit the satellite with a “sound bomb”, meaning he attacks it with sound waves consisting of every piece of recorded media ever. Yes, in this movie our male lead literally saves the world with the power of pop culture and rock n’ roll, which is a scene that Cameron Crowe proudly wrote with a straight face.
If I could become any fictional trope, I would want to be a white male lead in a Cameron Crowe movie, where you are never held accountable for your actions. Even if you are, getting out of them is as easy as choosing an appropriate Peter Gabriel song. Brian Gilchrest completely ruins dozens of people’s lives in this film, and in the end, they all end up thanking him. For about five minutes, Brian is shown to be wrong about the weaponized satellite, which is immediately retracted so that he can have a happy ending. “Does anyone care that Brian Gilchrest has somehow successfully weaponized sound?” you may ask and hahahahahahahahaha no, we can skip that so that he has a chance to go tell Tracy’s daughter that he’s her real father. Did I not mention that above? Yeah, Brian also learns that he has a child sometime throughout all this, and when she finds out that some dude she met a few days ago is her father and not the loving man who raised her throughout her entire life, she immediately cries with joy and hugs said random dude.
There’s a lot of stuff happening here as you can see, which makes the pacing of this film absolutely bonkers. The romantic tension between Cooper and
Lucy Liu Emma Stone is thrust upon the audience entirely within the first 20 minutes of their introduction. Because the movie doesn’t have time to waste on character development, their dialogue is full of exposition. If you didn’t understand that Brian is cynical, don’t worry, Manic Pixie Waifu-San is here to tell you over and over. At that point, the hardass by-the-book pilot disappears and is replaced by a whimsical dreamer. Stone’s character really feels like she came from the weakest parts of three different scripts. Within 40 minutes, all our major conflicts (except the hidden nuke) are set up and possibly already exploded. Ordinarily this would be fine, but it’s strange to watch major emotional scenes between characters while realizing “I know absolutely nothing about either of these people.”
This is what I mean when I say Aloha does so much that it accomplishes nothing: If you’re going to go light on character, then go heavy on plot. When Crowe does that, his plot makes absolutely no sense, so maybe try going heavy on tone or atmosphere or visuals. Crowe’s story is so convoluted that he forgets what kind of movie he’s making, so there really is no tone, and his visual design is limited to spinning the camera around sometimes. It turns out telling an off-the-rails political story attacking the military-industrial complex while using rom-com aesthetics works about as well as you would imagine. Atmosphere? The super white-parts of the Hawaiian Islands are the blandest, least character-filled filming locations. Emma Stone keeps telling us the forests are full of spirits (clearly channeling her Asian Mysticism), but no one is convinced. There’s no heart, no driving forces, nothing really pushing the movie in one way or another. The final result is a film that feels like nothing, except a waste of time for everyone involved.Liked This? Share It!