Four years after the 2011 ‘We bought a Zoo’, writer/director Cameron Crowe is back with the 2015 ‘Aloha’ and we’re off to Hawaii for this film, where of course ‘aloha’ means both hello and goodbye.
Brian Gilchrist (Bradley Cooper) is a space expert who moved into the private sector after a career in the military, only to have been seriously injured in Kabul a number of years ago. Having been given another chance to work as a contractor he is flying into Hawaii where he grew up, to support the launch of a new satellite by billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray).
He’s met off the plane by fighter pilot, highly driven career trail blazer Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone) but quickly meets former girlfriend Tracey Woodside (Rachael McAdams) who he hasn’t seen for 13 years.
The film begins to play out with him having developing feelings for Ng, but with returning feelings for the his former love who is married to a pilot (Woody played by John Krasinski) with 2 children. This is all happening against the backdrop of the upcoming launch of the satellite and Gilchrist trying to work out exactly who he is and wants to be in the future.
I’ve always enjoyed the work of Crowe and Jerry Maguire (1996) and Almost Famous are films that I’ve loved, but for some reason, this film really doesn’t work.
The characters all shift around too much to be credible and the film morphs from discussions about local blessings of a pedestrian new gate to international sky based arms races and chinese hackers out of nowhere. A story that wants to be a tale of emotional transition about former partners, new attraction and moving on with lives, gets lost at times with talk of secret satellite payloads and weaponry.
Its almost as though Crowe had the makings of a story and then became very concerned about the number of satellites in the sky, their potential arming, private corporation involvement in space, and also the history of Hawaii as a US state.
Both Murray and Alec Baldwin (playing General Dixon) add moments of humour in the film which distracts from the odd story unfurling, but it just doesn’t land.
Early in the film, Woody jokes that under the aloha exterior, Hawaii is ‘Casablanca baby’and there are certainly attempted hints of the classic Bogart film through the story with Tracey with the sense of the choice between Gilchrist, the not so good guy from her past that she may never have gotten over, but also the good guy, the honourable heroic character – Woody.
As you would expect with a Crowe film, music plays a large part, from the traditional Hawaiian folk singing scenes through to a montage of musical moments through history. But the problem is that by the end, the sense that I was left with was that I had just a film, of which the highlight was the soundtrack, which was disappointing as I had high hopes of the film.
Aloha is currently available on Netflix.