‘Aloha’ Has a Lot of Problems

A heavily edited and largely rewritten version of this review originally appeared on spiked. I’m not a precious writer but it’s weird being credited with something that no longer sounds like you. Here’s the original (with 100% more feminism & snark!).

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Aloha came out a long time ago in the US, and its reviews were not kind. Critics noted the problematic way it whitewashed Hawaii and its casting of white actors in non-white roles (Emma Stone’s character is said to be ¼ Chinese and ¼ Hawaiian in the script). These issues, alongside those leaked Sony emails which suggested execs saw the film tanking way before it was even released, mean that Aloha has become an embarrassment to many, and the famous actors in the film have begun to disassociate themselves from it (see Emma Stone’s personal apology here).

As we’re the last to hear about anything, Aloha is finally getting released in the UK this week, and despite starring some of the most interesting, bankable and award-winning actors, no-one’s talking about it. Its American reviews have stuck, as they should considering the accusations of racism are accurate. But for those hardcore Cameron Crowe fans considering watching Aloha on Friday, let’s talk about whether the film has any redeeming features.

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The crux of the plot is this. Brian Gilcrest, a military contractor played by Bradley Cooper, returns to Hawaii on business. He works for Bill Murray’s billionaire Carson Welch, who wants to launch a privately funded satellite into space, because why not? Some tricky negotiations about land take place, but no-one really cares about that. All the while, Bradley Cooper is torn between two women: his now married ex-girlfriend played by Rachel McAdams, and the precocious army pilot assisting his negotiations, played by Emma Stone. John Krasinski (of the American version of The Office) is pretty much wasted in a mute role with barely any screen time.

The plot is kind of stupid. Instead of focussing on the emotional centre of the piece, Crowe distracts us with the space mission storyline which never makes a lot of sense, or has real purpose, except for to show that Bradley Cooper is a sell-out (Bradley Cooper’s CHARACTER is a sell-out, is definitely what I meant). Securing Bill Murray for a film is always a coup, but his character is little more than a comic distraction, ham-fistedly jamming conflict into an otherwise sober film about a failure of a man and the women he loves (Jerry Maguire anyone?).

Bradley Cooper is well-versed in playing losers when you think about it; this is basically a re-treading of Silver Linings Playbook, with a lot less likeability, and that’s saying something. The fact that his love interests in Aloha are married with kids Rachel McAdams and 14 years younger than him Emma Stone, doesn’t do the movie any favours. Although he has chemistry with both Stone and McAdams (he’s Bradley GODDAMN Cooper, of course he has), it’s difficult to care who he ends up with, and despite being a sucker for a romantic premise, I borderline prayed for the movie to finish with him an even bigger than loser than he was at the start.

As for why Rachel McAdams signed up for this movie when she’s being offered roles with actual depth now (for all its flaws, True Detective Season 2 had many, many moments) can only hinge on one thing: Cameron Crowe. Once a manufacturer of nothing less than Oscars and gold, it’s been said that actors clamour to work with him. But the fact that the female roles in Aloha are so flimsy endears it even less. Despite her character being a pilot, Emma Stone is reduced to a pawn in the exchanges of the men in her life. Sure, she has some cute one-liners (this is the man that brought us Almost Famous, after all), but she’s basically a Manic Pixie Dream Girl in an army uniform. Which is sad.

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The script clearly wasn’t anyone’s first concern, and it seems as though everyone signed up for Aloha on the basis of it being a Cameron Crowe film. And that’s depressing considering the iconicity of Crowe’s previous work (John Cusack and THAT Boom Box! Tom Cruise having us at hello! Kate Hudson and an era of music!). Maybe it’s easily chalked up to another case of someone surrounded by too many Yes Men, no-one daring to say the obvious: “This could really use a second draft.”

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Amy Mackelden (a.k.a. July 2061) is a writer based on the Isle of Wight. Her writing has featured in places such as heat magazine, New Statesman online, anthologies from Cinnamon Press, Leaf Books and the Emma Press. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and a New Buds Award from New Writing South in 2015. She’s one of the co-founders of poetry magazine Butcher’s Dog, and has made two spoken word/theatre shows, The 8 Fatal Mistakes of Online Dating (& How To Avoid Them), & Retail, which is set in a closed-down Blockbuster & about a shared love of Woody Allen. Her blog, July 2061, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. She is totally, 100%, are you fucking kidding me, Team Krakow.


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