What happened with Cameron Crowe’s latest film? 

What happened with Cameron Crowe’s latest film? Even his middling movies, Elizabethtown and We Bought a Zoo, have a huge amount of charm but this is the guy who gave us the excellent Say Anything, Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. He may have once had us at hello but now it seems he’s lost us with Aloha.

The film has Bradley Cooper as a heroic ex-military military contractor and Emma Stone as a fighter pilot, heading up a cast that also features Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin and Bill Murray. On top of this it has beautiful Hawaiian locations and a cool soundtrack featuring everything from Fleetwood Mac to (Sigur Rós frontman) Jónsi Birgisson. On paper it doesn’t look like a hard sell yet in the US the critics mauled it and the viewing public went nowhere near it. The UK release was initially scheduled for January/February this year but was postponed to 18th September and now this date has passed too and there is no sign of it in theatres. Then last Friday it turned up on iTunes with no fanfare whatsoever and there seems to be no plans for a Blu-Ray issue on this side of the pond at all. I think it is fair to say it hasn’t had the domestic or international success Crowe would have wanted or is used to.

What went wrong then?

Is it that audiences have finally found Crowe’s typical cheesiness unpalatable? Is it that the controversy surrounding Emma Stone being cast as someone a quarter Chinese and a quarter Hawaiian has upset people? (They might just have got away with this had they not just very slightly darkened her skin.) To me it doesn’t appear to be either of these things. I believe the problem to be a lot more straightforward. The issue with Aloha is that it is rubbish. Not all of it; the first hour is likeable enough with its engaging leads carrying things along nicely but then half way through it totally and literally loses the plot.

It all starts off well enough. Cooper is a slightly down on his luck, damaged ex-services guy. He returns to Hawaii on business where he hooks up with an old girlfriend which only serves to reopen old wounds. He is charming throughout though and finds a new lease of life when paired with Stone’s impossibly perky go getter. He doesn’t like her at first but then begins to respect and eventually fall for her. It is quite sweet and, thanks largely to Emma Stone, very endearing. Then suddenly the sub plot about firing commercial satellites into space takes over and it all becomes totally nonsensical. Across the remaining fifty five minutes we get cod mysticism, bad outer space SFX, apparent mind reading, clumsy conspiracy and a horribly rushed denouement. If writer/director Crowe had just committed to one or two of these ideas it might have come off, like Christopher Nolan’s hard to swallow but ultimately tasty movie The Prestige. As it is though the film is all over the place.

This isn’t a matter of opinion, it isn’t as though some people just won’t get it, Cameron Crowe has totally ballsed it up.

How and why he has managed to do that is another question altogether and one I can’t fathom. He must have known he’d made a dud. The UK distributors clearly did.

The Ripley Factor:

This aspect of the film is fine. Stone and Rachel McAdams, as the ex, are good role models. Stone’s Alison Ng is a bit of a manic pixie dream girl but Crowe has given us those before. It was Elizabethtown no less that lead to the coining of the phrase in the first place. We could have forgiven him this had so much not been wrong elsewhere. He gets some credit for not being sexist but not much. 

Is this one for the kids?

The BBFC gave this a 12A back when it was heading for cinemas. It has some swearing and mild sex references but it is all pretty tame.

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