Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams
Director: Cameron Crowe
Running Time: 105 mins
Aloha is an American film about a former NASA employee who travels to Hawaii, scene of his greatest previous achievements, and rekindles a relationship with a former love, as well as growing very close to the budding young Air Force servicewoman assigned to him.
An A-list cast and a top director would have you believe otherwise, but Aloha is a real mess of a film. Floundering and meandering from its opening sequence, it’s a film that never manages to focus itself on any particular story, coming off more as a Richard Curtis-esque ensemble rom-com. Poor comedy, iffy performances and some bizarre directing choices don’t help any more either, and that makes for a consistently frustrating watch from start to finish.
In truth, this isn’t an atrocious film, simply because it’s so thin that it’s completely harmless. If you’re looking for a film to watch with your brain turned down to zero, this will do the job well, and provide a way to pass 105 minutes without really thinking at all.
But that’s not what we want to see. As much as I can excuse this film for being no more than a dumb rom-com, there are still some serious issues that make it frustrating if you’re trying to watch it properly. For one, the performances are staggeringly disappointing.
With an absolutely fantastic cast including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Bill Murray and even Alec Baldwin, I was expecting the main players to at least salvage something from this film. However, the majority of the actors appear very bored in their roles, a stark issue when we want to see some chemistry between Cooper and McAdams, Cooper and Stone, and Cooper and Krasinski, but it never comes.
Emma Stone, too, is surprisingly poor here. Easily one of the best young actresses in Hollywood at the moment, she plays a budding Air Force servicewoman in a very annoying and forced way throughout. Although her enthusiasm does subside towards the end (although that transition isn’t particularly convincing), her performance for the most part represents the only real life in the film, and yet still comes off as irritating more than anything.
Beyond the performances, I was also hugely disappointed by Cameron Crowe’s directing and writing. The man who made Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky should really be doing better than this, but it’s impossible to avoid the fact that he gets so much wrong here.
For one, the film’s atmosphere is all over the place. In conjunction with the screenplay’s infuriating inability to focus on one area of the characters’ lives for more than five minutes, the film pulls you all over the place from simple rom-com to ensemble drama, from a commentary about the military to a love letter to Hawaii, and it all makes for a really confusing and frustrating watch.
At moments, it feels like Crowe is getting a message across, whether it’s a peaceful scene reflecting on traditional Hawaiian culture, or a tender conversation between two characters. However, the fact that there’s no consistent focus at any point, and then the problem of the meandering and awkwardly-paced story on top, means it’s never possible to really get invested in any part of Aloha.
Overall, I was very disappointed by this film. Partly in the knowledge that its fantastic cast and writer-director can do so much better, but also because it’s a movie that never knows what it wants to be. Often overestimating its storytelling and emotional power, it flies to and fro between all sorts of areas of the characters’ lives, and makes for a completely uninteresting and frustrating watch, which is why I’m giving Aloha a 5.7.