The word “Aloha” means both “hello” and “goodbye”, but in this case, it means: “Better luck next time”.
Review by Tom Munday
Aloha launches immediately into the confused existence of defense contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper). Sent around the world, helping the USA kick ass, and take anything it wants, he is assigned to close the biggest deal of his career in Hawaii. Tarnished by professional and personal quarrels, one slip up here could get him fired, sued, and jailed in quick succession. Gilcrest, assigned to USAF fighter pilot Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), seeks to solve long-standing issues with an old flame, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), dodge her husband/his work friend Woody (John Krasinski), and befriend his new billionaire boss, Carson (Bill Murray).
The Hollywood romantic-comedy has gone through a roller-coaster ride of pleasant highs and dismal lows. Like horror, the genre continually attracts large audiences, thanks to predictable events, and attractive people. Its comfort-food simplicity, however, has led to a current string of pump-‘em-and-dump-‘em flicks normally starring Katherine Heigl and the “it” guy of the week. Despite the Oscar-worthy cast and interesting concepts, Aloha is no more subversive or invigorating than any Ugly Truth or Bounty Hunter. It literally and figuratively aims for the stars, but crashes and burns from the get-go. Writer/director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) has delivered another watered-down re-hash of his 1996 lightning-in-bottle success.
Like 2005’s Elizabethtown, Crowe’s story construction and dialogue come off like a stoned monkey reciting Shakespeare. Aloha meanders peculiarly between irritating characters, Hallmark Card emotional moments, and underdeveloped sub-plots. For the first two-thirds, Aloha never highlights its central plot-line; we stalk Gilcrest from one scene to another, pleading for some much-needed exposition. What is he working on? Why is he so depressed? Why should we care about these white people’s problems? Sadly, the third-act revelations provide underwhelming answers. The characters also add to the absurdity. Caricatures like Krasinski’s eternally-silent weakling, Danny McBride’s tick-laden comic relief, and Alec Baldwin’s screechy, vein-throbbing head honcho, leave no one likeable or engaging to cling onto.
This romantic-comedy is hindered by Crowe’s faux-philosophical dialogue. His “You complete me/Show me the money!” spirit has faded away, replaced with artificial, bumper-sticker sayings and monologues. Lines including “I was your last chance!” reveal Crowe’s detachment from reality. Similarly, his version of cultural appreciation never ventures beyond stereotypes. The second act, despite delving into Hawaiian culture and tradition, reveals Aloha’s cheap, uninspired veneer. Throwing in key phrases and rituals, it takes its unique angle for granted in favour of a generic romantic-comedy narrative. In addition, touches including Stone’s casting as a quarter-Hawaiian character hinders the movie’s own point.
There are some positives within the vaguely offensive, frustrating mess of Aloha. Of course, Hawaii’s luscious scenery and ritualistic ceremonies provide a gorgeous backdrop to the foregrounded vanilla mayhem. Each establishing shot provides hopeful relief before the madness kicks in again. The cast, trying as hard as possible, does its best to overcome the sentimental, weird material. Cooper, one of Hollywood’s most charismatic leading men, applies himself effectively. Stone’s manic persona delivers, elevating many corny lines and exchanges. McAdams, however, is pushed out of frame as the doting love interest/major obstacle. In addition, Murray’s role could easily have been filled by anyone.
Aloha, despite the monstrous pedigree at its disposal, is hindered by Crowe’s unruly writing and direction. A shadow of his former self, the man is out of time and depth.
Aloha is available in Australian cinemas as of Thursday June 4
Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox