“I think that Hawaii is a place to escape for people who can’t deal with the real world.”
-Sarah Marshall (Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
I’ve figured it out. I know why some of Cameron Crowe’s films hit you like a semi-truck filled with puppies and why others are sweet savory treats. Casting. It was there all along. The answer to the question of what makes Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous win Academy Awards and Elizabethtown win Razzies!
Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a somewhat disgraced aviations officer who returns home to Hawaii to turn his career around. He is employed by eccentric billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray) to help ease the locals’ concerns about a private satellite being shot into space. Rachel McAdams stars as Tracy Woodside. Woodside and Gilcrest have a complicated past. Woodside is married to John Krasinski’s character Woody, and the pair have two kids. Insert Emma Stone’s character Allison Ng, a smitten understudy of Gilcrest who competes for his heart.
I don’t usually give a synopsis that detailed, but I think it is important to know how each character is related to one another in order to fully understand my critique. McAdams, Murray, and Krasinski are perfectly cast and do wondrous jobs. McAdams is the perfect balance of sweetness and strength that her role demands. Murray is funny and affable as a rogue playboy billionaire. Krasinski has very few lines but does the best with what he has.
Where the picture comes off the track is the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone. Both are great actors which can obviously be seen in their last two features. Cooper was amazing in American Sniper, and Stone was a revelation in Birdman. The problem here is Crowe wants us to so badly believe Cooper would be seduced by Stone, and unfortunately it falls through. I’m not one to re-cast movies, but ultimately I feel this is Crowe’s greatest weakness. Orlando Bloom being in Elizabethtown was his most egregious casting error, but Matt Damon in We Bought a Zoo wasn’t great either. Jennifer Lawrence is the obvious pick to play opposite Cooper because of their past on-screen chemistry. But Shailene Woodley or Margot Robbie would have been great fits as well. I also think Cooper was miscast. The role of Brian Gilcrest needed someone who was a little less masculine. Ben Stiller was originally attached, but I think Mark Ruffalo would have been amazing.
Aloha isn’t a bad movie. The story, even though at times is convoluted, is worth telling. Cameron Crowe is the king of quotable dialogue, and Aloha is no different. He also has a way of making characters seem ultra-relatable. No matter which film you pick out of his catalogue, there is a character you wish you knew or can see a piece of yourself in.
Aloha is unfortunately a forgettable movie. Cameron Crowe’s script is once again great, but the sum of the parts doesn’t add up to all that much. The man who brought us great lines like “Show me the money!” and “You had me at hello” is still there. He can still write great characters like Lloyd Dobler and Penny Lane. What he really needs is the right cast and maybe a little help in the editing room. True fans of Crowe won’t pine over the downfalls of Aloha because it isn’t all bad. But to the mass audience, Aloha will leave them speaking the words of Lloyd Dobler after conversing with the guys in front of the Gas & Sip, “That was a mistake!”