Sunday, March 6, 2016
You have to wait to the very end of Aloha for the best-acted moment. Up to that point, Aloha is a collection of scenes that range from mildly amusing to confusing, from manipulative to boring.
Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is some kind of aerospace genius, a former military operative who was injured in a shady deal that went south in Afghanistan. Now on the mend, he's back in his old stomping grounds in Hawaii as a civilian trying to get back into the game. He's negotiating with native Hawaiians for rights to land that his boss, eccentric billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), needs for a satellite launch base. This puts him back in touch with former girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams), now married with two kids. And he's paired with an Airforce minder, Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), who knows his reputation as a technical wizard.
Writer/Director Cameron Crowe doesn't seem to even try stitching all of this together convincingly. We see Gilcrest as a near invalid in the first scenes, and then he's climbing a mountain. Ng talks frequently about Gilcrest's technical accomplishments, but we don't see him as anything other than a lame negotiator until the last 20 minutes, when he plugs his private laptop into a launch center's network and starts pounding away at the keys. Blonde-haired, green-eyed Ng is supposed to have both Hawaiian and Chinese ancestry, something that makes her scene strumming a guitar with the Hawaiians ring hollow.
Obviously intended to be a romantic comedy, Aloha has few lines that are genuinely funny. Cooper, Stone and McAdams are undistinguished. Only Alec Baldwin as bombastic General Dixon brings even a hint of energy in the few moments he's onscreen.
Oh, but then there's the final scene. Danielle Rose Russell, as Tracy's oldest daughter, Grace, has a remarkable few minutes. No words, just reaction. It is the most accomplished and honestly felt moment, and it's a shame it's lost at the end of such an otherwise unremarkable film.