“Aloha” reminds me of the kid from primary school that I never really liked, but was so intent upon being likeable that I finally gave up and befriended him. This movie really wants you to like it.
I would stake my money on the guess that Cameron Crowe wrote his script for “Aloha” during the collapse of his marriage with Nancy Wilson. It reeks with the self hatred of a person who has been professionally successful and a personal disaster. He packs so much misplaced emotion into it that it is all unbalanced and nothing adds up. The problem with the film is that it was made so many years after the script was written, so it doesn’t break up all over the place as does Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” but plods a circular route through an abyss that once seemed bottomless and is now part of a general reconciliation of one’s failures with the possibility of redemption and renewal. Were Crowe an artist, “Aloha” might have some redeeming artistic merit, but since he is not, its points of interest are simply gossipy surmising’s relative to events and emotions about which there is no tangible evidence.
As we watch the movie, we quickly acquire a lengthy list of whys. Why is the captain girl so concerned about weaponing the sky when she herself is a fighter pilot? Why does the twelve year old daughter of the ex-girlfriend look like a mature fourteen? Why does Bill Murray get cast repeatedly in roles that are so underwritten that he can bring whatever he wants to them and anything will fit? if Gilcrest is so crazy about this past love from 15 years ago, why does he choose to continue with the skinny little dingbat when the woman he really loves is ready to dump her husband and take him back? And why doesn’t the husband talk? does he think the whole world is telepathic with him? if so, why do we need subtitles to know what he is mutely saying? Why does Crowe leave us with the message that civilians should not be allowed to make decisions about how outer space is utilized by the human race, when President Eisenhower went to so much trouble to create NASA to ensure that space remained out of the hands of the military? Is he a reactionary meathead or what?
Some race-obsessed bigots have given the writer-director a hard time for casting wonder-bread complexioned Emma Stone as the 1/4 Hawaiian love interest. it wouldn’t surprise me if Margaret Cho was behind that one. as she cries herself to sleep every night knowing she will never be Harrison Ford’s leading lady. But the running joke about Allison Ng’s racial pedigree is one of the few things in the movie that works. And it only works because she looks like such a ghost. There isn’t much else about her that is as distinctive. Stone is as bland as she is blonde, and any goofy little gag helps give her the wacky “Bringing Up Baby” personality that is so essential to her character.
I never gave a thought to Bradley Cooper before seeing him in “American Sniper,” and he is the force that holds this unstable molecule of a movie together. He suffers with such inexpressive desperation that we can read him any way we choose. And stuck inside a narrative that takes so many clumsy spins, it is a good thing we don’t have to stick to a single interpretation of what may or may not be going on in the little sucker’s head at any given time.
Aside from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” which is my favorite high school movie of the eighties, I have disliked everything Cameron Crowe has either written or directed. With this in mind, let me say that I have a soft spot for “Aloha.” In all its disjointed confusion, there is something honest about it. Not completely honest, mind you, but medium honest. Crowe strikes me as an insufferable little prick who clicked his red heels and took home the jackpot. Now that he has lost it, I feel sympathy for what little talent he does have, and I almost like this assemblage of little mis-cut pieces of costume jewelry.