Aloha has a stellar cast. Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachael McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski Danny McBride, and Alec Baldwin all signed on to do this romantic dramedy, and one would think that with that sort of star power that the film could have at least succeeded on some level. But that’s forgetting one thing: this film was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, a director with a lot of passion, but very little by way of talent. He has only made two good films (Jerry McGuire and Almost Famous) at the start of his career that he has coasted on ever since, and has since been responsible for such travesties as Elizabethtown and Vanilla Sky. Yet somehow, studios still inexplicably give him money to make films, with his latest dull wit forming the basis for Aloha.
Brian Gilcrest (Cooper) is a military contractor responsible for overseeing the successful launch of a satellite into Earth’s orbit. In order to fulfill this mission, we travels to Hawaii, where he meets his old lover (McAdams), who has settled down and is married with children. While rekindling his friendship with her, Brian meets Captain Allison Ng (Stone, supposedly portraying a part-Hawaiian, part-Chinese woman in the most racially tone-deaf casting this side of United Passions), who has been assigned to keep an eye on him while he preps the satellite for launch. After a rocky start, the two begin to develop feelings for one another.
I say a rocky start, but the two seemingly transition from ideologically rivalrous banter to face-sucking giddiness at the drop of a hat, perhaps acting as one of the worst romantic arcs put to film in recent years. It doesn’t help that Stone is portraying the prototypical Manic Pixie Dream GirlTM, the overused (notably by Crowe on multiple occasions) cinematic device wherein a carefree spirited young woman pulls an uptight man out of his shell into the relaxed groove that is love. That’s not a character; that’s a wet dream. And Stone, try as she might, doesn’t bring anything new to the role. Which is sad, considering that Cooper and Stone are both fantastic actors.
But that can largely be blamed on Crowe's plodding writing and direction, which feels equal parts lazy, incompetent, and uninspired. For what is supposed to be a dramedy, there are actually very few jokes, and the ones that are attempted are so disparate in comic tone and completely unestablished that they never land as funny. It’s easy to see how a more competent director could have made those scenes or that dialogue smirk-worthy, but Crowe seems to have forgotten how, or at least doesn’t care enough to have his actors convey anything other than goofy smiles.
I understand how a film like Aloha is supposed to be appealing. It’s about beautiful people in a beautiful place having a good time and ultimately falling in love with each other. There are literally hundreds of movies that fit this formula, and some of them work. Aloha doesn’t because it doesn’t have any aspirations beyond being a vacation for its cast and crew. It’s a lazy product that thankfully didn’t make its money back. Hopefully this will keep producers from giving their money to Cameron Crowe again. But it likely won’t, and that’s the saddest thing of all.