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by Erik Childress

"Made of Real Crowe Parts, But You Have To Look For Them"
3 stars

Walking into a Cameron Crowe film is typically a welcome relief from the general cynicism of today's filmmaking and by-the-numbers romantic comedies stealing well too many hard-earned dollars from people too quick to forget how those things work. This is a filmmaker who transformed the window serenade into the iconic boombox image in "Say Anything." He went from the irony of "show me the money" to "you had me at hello" and then won an Oscar for turning what could have been an autobiographical vanity project into a romanticized commentary on the music industry that would have made his mentor, Billy Wilder, proud. The point being that a new Cameron Crowe project should be met with open arms and not cautious derision. Yet you can bet that the pessimists out there will be having a field day with the double meaning of his latest title. Unfortunately, there are not entirely wrong.

Brian Gilchrist (Bradley Cooper) used to be a military man on the ground but has since put that behind him to work with private contractors. A little safer than dodging missiles like the one that nearly ended him, but a decision that draws the scorn of those in outfit like General Dixon (Alec Baldwin). Working again for billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray) he is traveling to Hawaii to get the blessing of one of the local tribes for a new satellite to be launched. Even the precious nature of the sky to these folks is nothing without good cell phone service. Assigned to be his liaison is fighter pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone) who puts more stock into the cultural myths of the island and apepars determined to rub them off on the more skeptical Brian.

Adding to Brian's confusion on the island is that his ex-girlfriend, Tracy (Rachel McAdams) maintains her residence there with her two children and silently communicative husband, Woody (John Krasinski). Old feelings don't appear to be an issue for these two as most of their conversations revolve around why they broke up and moving on. Like much of Brian's past it is easy enough to move forward when a better opportunity presents itself which it is in Allison. If only he can merge the present with the knowledge he has of the uneasy future of his job, maybe love can indeed survive.

It was hard enough to write that sentence without deleting it from the review, the computer memory and all traces of its existence. If it were anything but a Cameron Crowe film, the sarcasm would just ooze from it rather than just the mere glaze it has in current form. The engaging impracticality of Crowe's relationships though are what normally makes them stand apart from the rut of cardboard interaction of most cinema couples. It might sound like fortune cookie wisdom to some but Crowe's screenplays in the past bask in the genuine glow of dialogue that sounds like it comes from the untapped ventricles of the heart that most of us are too afraid to let bleed. Those moments are on display in Aloha as is a "moment" played between Stone and Cooper that is tortuously sincere in hitting our inner monologue to scream out "KISS HER!" A moment like that only makes its less sincere ones all the more disheartening.

Music is obviously something very close to Crowe so when he crafts an entire film around its effect on people it feels like it comes from the heart. When he tries to do the same to weapons contracting it feels like something he read on Twitter. Crowe does his best to connect how hidden secrets and progress have stifled the fairy tales that smothered actual reality. Wind is cut to as a character almost as often as it was in M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening and it is easy to identify it in solid form as jibberish despite it being what should be the film's true heart. Instead the film breaks halfway to give Brian and Allison their obligatory wedge in the form of a subplot that feels like something out of Real Genius. ("Everybody Wants To Rule the World" is even played by request.) The full implications of Brian's process to resolving, even avenging, this half-baked problem allows Crowe the opportunity to put a satellite in nostalgia overdrive which makes the climax of Vanilla Sky feel like a mis-remembered jingle. But it is also the moment one wishes they could jump off a building and back to a time when things were better.

Crowe's Elizabethtown received an infamous screening at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005. Ironically the story of a disgraced shoe designer had his professional redemption excised from the film before release and is now seemingly lost forever. (Though almost as some odd tribute, Baldwin plays basically the same character he did in that film and gets to personally deliver the equally ludicrous redemption exposition to Brian here.) Somewhere a more well-rounded version of Aloha likely exists, perhaps with more Bill Murray spouting soundbite acumen to make his corporate villainy more balanced, more crazed or just more something. An extension of words is hardly what Aloha is lacking though as the film's best scenes by far are the ones spoken through silence. The bits between Krasinski and Cooper is amongst some of the most ingenious insight into alpha male communication that Crowe has ever done and the film's final scene, while not given enough breathing room in its buildup, is also quite beautiful. These are quintessential bits of Crowe in a film that just cannot commit to the payload it wants to deliver.

(NOTE: As for any controversy that Crowe's film is populated by Caucasian actors - including one who is supposed to be half Hawaiian/Asian - the same fuel was hardly applied to Alexander Payne's The Descendants with white people having white people problems before finally allowing history to win out over cash, so either be consistent or just admit you casually ignore it when you like the film.)

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originally posted: 05/29/15 06:00:00
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User Comments

9/11/15 Bents Character motivation makes no sense on too many occasions 1 stars
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  29-May-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Aug-2015

  04-Sep-2015 (12A)


Directed by
  Cameron Crowe

Written by
  Cameron Crowe

  Bradley Cooper
  Emma Stone
  Rachel McAdams
  Bill Murray
  John Krasinski
  Danny McBride

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