Cameron Crowe gives his characters so much life in Aloha, but the film attempts to tackle so much with a direction that never feels focused enough. Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone shine, while the rest of their co-stars struggle to do their characters justice in such a layered and tangled film.
Cameron Crowe‘s latest film Aloha just might be his deepest yet and also his most confusing. Aloha presents itself as a simple drama about one man facing his many past mistakes, but it attempts to tackle said drama through a different approach, using Hawaii not only as a backdrop, but as a spiritual and metaphorical character itself.
Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is an interesting disaster, formed by a past full of many highs and more recently many lows. He’s a military contractor assigned with a new mission that brings him back to his old stomping grounds, which digs up much dirt, including a broken relationship with an old flame named Tracy (Rachel McAdams), while also bringing him face-to-face with his own corrupted moral compass, which slowly starts to turn bright thanks to a new-found friend and co-worker (played by Emma Stone).
Cameron Crowe‘s Aloha is Crowe’s most confounding film yet, mixing in a whole mess of characters and meanings with a script that presents itself as a somewhat confusing story about past love and future hope, while also tapping into something a lot more spiritual and grand, yet not exactly straightforward.
To call Aloha a noble attempt at something truly special, but an end result that might be deemed as a failure to some is fair, because the film really does bite off more than it can chew.
But it does it in a way that occasionally works and when it does it becomes something exceptional and cozy.
Crowe has always been known to write characters very well and Aloha is no exception. He fills each and every character with so much life and odd energy, always allowing them to collide in ways that feel pure.
But he struggles with keeping the right focus on the right character at the right time. It’s all about timing and Aloha faces an uphill battle with such star power that includes Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski and briefly Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride.
Crowe knows that Cooper is the main focus of Aloha, but he never quite establishes the important secondary characters.
Emma Stone bursts onto the screen with energy that’s infectious and bright, yet is sometimes downplayed for more screen time with a restrained and slightly boring Rachel McAdams.
McAdams is a great talent to have in any film and Crowe utilizes her ability to gobble up such small amounts of dialogue and turn it into something magical, but the film’s script doesn’t seem that interested in progressing any of it, which is shame and an almost waste of talent.
John Krasinki‘s mostly muted and back-noised Woody almost gets more attention than McAdams, which robs the film of some of its better moments.
Their are two moments, one between Cooper and Stone and one between Cooper and McAdams — that absolutely strike storytelling gold, creating scenes that emote so much through so little and that gives Aloha a warm sense of achievement that I applaud Crowe for, but those scenes are nestled inside of a very disoriented story that’s just structured too weird for the common crowd and perhaps not weird enough for those seeking something really bizarre.
I’m not sure if Crowe’s over-ambitious storytelling is ruined by a script that just spawns more ideas than it knows what to do with them or if its his free-flowing direction that never hunkers down enough on one concept versus another, but something along the way pulls down Aloha and keeps it from being a great film about lost souls on a never-ending mission of correction and redemption.
Aloha isn’t the movie that Sony is marketing heavy on the smiles and fuzzy memories of past kisses on the beautiful islands of Hawaii. Aloha is about so much more, but unfortunately even Cameron Crowe doesn’t know how to translate that into a fully working film and instead one that explores and tries more than it doesn’t.