Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Written by: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and Bill Murray
I wish I could say that I was dragged to the theater kicking and screaming to see Aloha, or that I had lost a bet or been dared by someone to sit through it. Alas, I paid $8.50 for a matinee ticket and watched all of it it on my own free will, and I have to live with that decision.
Outside of being a cloying, uninteresting romance, Cameron Crowe’s film is so narratively fractured that it often feels incoherent. Is Brian Gilcrest, a military contractor played by Bradley Cooper, world-weary and depressed or is he chipper and earnest? He switches between these two extremes from scene to scene, which makes him much more exciting than any of the one-dimensional support around him. Almost all of them are repeatedly defined by a single characteristic, like nervously moving their hands, never talking or, most offensively, being “one-quarter Hawaiian.”
There is already quite a bit of backlash against Aloha’s whitewash, specifically Emma Stone’s casting as that latter character, Allison Ng. Crowe continues to rub that casting in, too, having her or another character repeatedly remark about her heritage. It’s as if he realized halfway through filming that all his principle characters were white people and rewrote it in one of the most offensive ways imaginable.
Ng is also a completely one-note character, and exists almost solely to draw out Gilcrest’s good side and make him the Great Man he always knew he was. Gilcrest’s now-married ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who he left 13 years ago, serves the exact same purpose; she drops her resentment at a moment’s notice and is powerless before his serene blue eyes. The most repeated shot in the movie is of the female characters looking over their shoulder and looking at Gilcrest longingly.
Aloha’s insultingly saccharine straight male fantasy is set amid a suspiciously polished military base backdrop on Hawaii. It involves the sinister overlap between the U.S. military and private corporations. The head of the company Gilcrest works for (Bill Murray) is pretty much a stoned Bond villain who wants to launch a satellite that is secretly his own personal nuke. If Murray knew he was supposed to be playing the bad guy he sure fooled me; he floats through the movie like an extra who occasionally blurts out a random thought.
Gilcrest only seems to realize how preposterously sinister his boss’ plan is after seeing how sad it makes Ng when his satellite launches. Aloha‘s half-assed attempt to engage with Hawaiian history and culture is erased by cartoonish gestures like this. Crowe’s vague political sentiments seem like desperate grasps at relevance amid the gaudy displays of sentimentality.