Friday, May 29, 2015

Aloha - Review

Cameron Crowe had been a beloved auteur of mine in the past, even when I lived through the pop-cultural overdosing of his most famous feature JERRY MAGUIRE. He was able to wrestle out and craft these funny yet moving tales led by what he dubbed the "battered idealist". I skipped out on him after the dismal response to VANILLA SKY and stood on the sidelines when his two successive features ended up being prime material for the internet community to bounce on. I return to the world of Crowe with ALOHA, only to find it to be an inhabitable island of dreck, littered with inexcusable dialogue and plagued by absurd storytelling. This movie is one of the most embarrassing big-time rom-coms to come out of Hollywood in quite some time. It also continues the trend set by THE DESCENDANTS in that films set in Hawaii are doomed to fail if the entire cast is nearly comprised entirely of Caucasian characters. While that unjustly favored drama went on to be an awards favorite, everyone from average Joe to the Academy can see that ALOHA is a complete and total mess.

Bradley Cooper stars as Brian Gilcrest. I would further explain what he does for a living but the film doesn't easily address it. During the course of many ludicrous events, he works as a military contractor, a rocket scientist, a negotiator, a hacker, a software engineer, and beyond. He's back in Hawaii working under the watch of billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), who left him for dead in Kabul for a specific reason. Brian got better but now sports a surgical repaired right leg; I'll bring this note back up later and not just to mock Cooper for often forgetting to walk with a limp. Welch is working with the U.S. military to send up a private satellite into space and Brian is the man to help do it just because. He's assigned a partner/watch dog in the form of hot-shot fighter pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone). Yes, Stone was cast to play a 1/4 Hawaiian, 1/4 Chinese and 1/2 Swedish character who lives and operates in Hawaii yet has a skin color of pure white. Things get further complicated when his ex-flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams) gets to be a little too friendly, much to the quiet chagrin of her ever so stoic husband (John Krasinski).

This all seems so easy to digest for the viewer, mild white-washing aside, but it is in the gross execution and creativity of Crowe that ultimately will drive you insane. The dialogue is practically incomprehensible, riddled with hipster wordplay and continuously flowing out of the actors' mouths like diarrhea. The editing structure has no sense of blend or tone, as it just cuts and cuts away any form of continuity and even parts of the story. The soundtrack is the usual bag of old standard rock songs that Crowe likes but it is ruined by the film's extensive amounts of ADR. The cinematography has a nice sun-bleached look to it, similar to the Hawaiian home movies of old as seen in the long opening credits, but Crowe wheels back any further creative ideas from the film's DP Eric Gautier. Most of the film is shot in standard medium and closeup framing; after all, it's Crowe's story that people came to see, not the hard work of others.

The very minor charm of the actors, Stone and Murray especially, can not hide any of the sheer amount of lunacy in Crowe's screenplay. Some of his story's true lowlights include: Brian being labeled as a cynic misanthrope despite acting like a charming, smooth operator from frame two; Danny McBride's character being nicknamed "Fingers" because he constantly rolls his fingers like he's Satchmo on the air trumpet; Brian has two big toes stitched together on his damaged leg and shows it to us out of nowhere; Tracy acts way too inconsiderate and has Brian hang around with her children like it's nothing; a kid breaks through a restricted area and videotapes top secret information off-screen for purely convenient reasons; a breakup scene takes place while a character is wearing an ugly hat that literally covers their face, similar to a bucket; and the non-climactic coup de grĂ¢ce where a problem is stupidly solved by unleashing a bomb of random video clips and significant sound bites. I could go on further about other oddities and my personal favorites, including a dance scene that needs to be seen to believe, but you get the point. However, the most wretched design by Crowe is the Allison Ng character. Another one of his pathetic Manic Pixie Dream Girls, Allison is a not real adult but a petulant child. She huffs and puffs when she doesn't get her way, performs her morning run by jumping up and down and clapping her hands, and she somehow is unable to get a guy, especially as a fighter pilot. Even more worse, she is the film's resident Hawaiian folklore expert ("I'm Hawaiian!" she keeps saying), consistently acting like a crazy person that every small thing, including a wind breeze blowing open a window, is the work of the spirits. She believes that her and Brian's military mission is messing up with the "mana" of the island and she wants to preserve the sky. Oh, that great sky and and all of its stars; let Cameron Crowe go on and on about its so-called majestic power.

This mumbo-jumbo and pseudo spiritual side of the picture ties in with Crowe's horrific treatment of the Native Hawaiians. According to his vision, these non-white people live in the far off wilderness to themselves, protesting the U.S. occupation of Hawaii. They are all characterize as racist thugs, giving the stink eye to Brian and Allison and ready to beat them up for daring to step on their land and trying to broker a deal with their nationalist leader. Of course, when cooler heads prevail, they are then seen as beer-chugging citizens who like to sing folk songs. All of this is pretty heinous, especially since, again, there is a lack of non-Caucasian characters outside of this area. I would properly be more offended by it if the whole negotiating conflict didn't make me recall a hilarious running gag on the television show Parks and Recreations, where its resident Native Americans would jokingly play on their culture and stereotypes to scare white people.

From his poor handling in the technical department to the muck that is his screenplay, Crowe allowed ALOHA to be his absolute worst film and his potential career killer. His terrible artistry displayed here is unacceptable for current and future mass consumption. It begs the question of how did he not see everything that is wrong with the picture, most definitely when the film reaches its unintentionally creepy conclusion. I would say that he should charge up his batteries and get a new, updated set list but quite frankly, he has now sadly become the joke everyone labels him to be.


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