Director: Cameron Crowe
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone
3 (out of 5) Globes
Usually when a movie has been clearly gutted by a studio they try to subtract the filmmaker’s voice. The film will be all plot, little character; there will be lots of montages where large chunks of story once stood. “Aloha” may be the strangest studio hack-up ever. It’s as though it was cut up on random. The voice of the filmmaker, Cameron Crowe, is in-tact, and scenes that would serve no narrative purpose, there to add color, remain. Meanwhile certain important bits — like, well, the basics of the plot and why anyone is doing anything at any given time — seem to have been removed. As such, the movie sometimes makes little sense, moving rudderless through a story that seems to have both too much plot and not enough. And yet it’s like the common read on Howard Hawks “The Big Sleep”: it’s incoherent as narrative but every scene is great.
OK, not every scene is great, per se, but every scene is alive and often weird, if sometimes chaotic in a way that doesn’t always, but sometimes does, seem intentional. As with many Crowe films, it opens with a confessional narration from its hero, in this case Brian Gilchrest (Bradley Cooper), a former NASA specialist turned freelance defense contractor who arrives in Hawaii for…something. It might be buried in the opening, but it’s so jam-packed and jumbled little makes sense. What matters is he’s a character, like Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, in need of redemption, and also that there are girls to choose from: Tracy (Rachel McAdams), an ex he hasn’t seen in 13 years, who now has a husband (John Krasinksi) and two children: and Allison Ng (Emma Stone), a Type-A air force pilot tasked with carting him around the islands on his super-secret mission.
Crowe was once, with “Jerry Maguire,” a star director; now, thanks to eccentric boondoggles like “Vanilla Sky” and “Elizabethtown,” he’s a troubled child. Crowe is only 57, and “Aloha” is only his eighth ever fiction feature, but it bears the hallmarks of a late period film by a relaxed master, riffing on the themes that run through a career’s worth of films and coasting on the distinguished personality of its maker. Crowe does not care about the plot he himself wrote, nor its topicality. Brian’s business involves the privatization and militarization of America’s more or less aborted NASA program (an idea that, as it happens, also cropped up in “Tomorrowland’), with Brian working for a probably evil millionaire. But Crowe’s heart lies elsewhere, and even the probably evil millionaire is played by Bill Murray, in full-on sad eyes mode. Murray even gets to get down, for no reason than for fun, to Tears for Fears with Emma Stone. Crowe is too much of a softie to even take down the people actually ruining the world.