Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 105 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. The romantic drama is a man trying to reconcile his past and his future, embodied by two different romantic interests, so there is a good deal of relationship talk, some sexual references and jokes, some kissing and an implied sex scene with characters waking up in bed together; some cursing and language; a lot of drinking and some cigarette smoking done by adults; and talk about the War on Terror and weapons of mass destruction, as well as a somewhat grotesque image of a man with an extra toe attached to his foot.
‘Aloha’ can’t figure out what it is – a romantic drama, a political allegory, a military critique, a relationship comedy – and doesn’t stick to anything long enough to make it work. The film is listless, and audiences will be, too.
By Roxana Hadadi
The commercials for the movie “Aloha” don’t have any idea what the movie is about – just show scenes with Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone and the Hawaiian location, and hope for the best! – but after seeing it, you might not, either. This is such a choppy, rhythm-lacking film, meant to be about hope, optimism, and love, but it doesn’t end up delivering on the big feelings and big impact it wants to have. “Aloha” just happens and then it’s gone.
Despite some charming moments and likeable performances, “Aloha” doesn’t seem to have a clear audience or a clear point: It won’t ring true to adults (the romantic relationships are too thrown together; the character motivations too nonsensical) or teenagers (there are no relatable young characters, and most of the plot developments are adult-centered).
“Aloha” focuses on former military man Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper, of “Guardians of the Galaxy”), disgraced after an incident in Kabul, Afghanistan, who now works for the billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray, of “St. Vincent”), who wants to send a satellite into space. Brian’s assignment is to travel to Hawaii and receive the blessing of the local elders there so that Carson can launch his satellite, which would continue the privatization of space by the world’s ultra-rich, an issue that Brian feels uneasy about morally but doesn’t really want to do anything about. Upon landing in Hawaii, he’s paired up with military liaison Allison Ng (Emma Stone, of “Magic in the Moonlight”), a one-fourth Hawaiian Air Force pilot who is there to watch him, help him communicate with the locals, and question him about their shared interests: “the sky, the future, everything.”
But there are people from Brian’s past in Hawaii who pop up, too: His ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams, of “About Time”), now married to his old friend, Woody (John Krasinski, of “The Wind Rises”). There are lingering feelings between Tracy and Brian, but also something developing between Brian and Allison, too, since she sees something in him—some lost optimism, earnestness, or goodness—that she thinks is worth saving. Brian is faced with a variety of decisions about his job, his relationships, and his future while in Hawaii, and they all rest on him: what he’s willing to give up and what he’s willing to gain.
The writer and director of “Aloha,” Cameron Crowe, has made a career out of movies about being in love (the teen favorites “Say Anything…” and “Almost Famous,” and the forever tearjerker “Jerry Maguire”), and it’s clear that he wants to recreate that with “Aloha.” Why else have Allison fall head over heels for Brian practically immediately? But Crowe wants to explore too much else: the privatization of our environment, the overlap between the military and the ultra-rich, the Hawaiian culture and how it’s changing. There is far too much happening and not one clear narrative that audiences will become invested in, and it’s clear that “Aloha” loses its way often and consistently.
Nevertheless, there are things to like here. Across the board, the performances are well done; although the age difference between Cooper and Stone is noticeable and troublesome, and the suggestion that Stone is part Hawaiian is laughable, she brings energy and zeal to the role that keep the film buoyant. Per most of Crowe’s movies, the soundtrack is intentional and well employed. And of course, the Hawaiian location is beautiful.
If you don’t think about “Aloha” too much, it could float along somewhat enjoyably, if nonsensically. For parents and teenagers, conversations could be had afterward about the transformative nature of love; the ethics of the military and the 1 percent; and the depiction of Hawaiian culture. But “Aloha” is not a great film, and for all its ambitions, it stumbles more often than it succeeds.
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