When I first saw Aloha advertised, I thought it had several things going for it: Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director; actors Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams; and the gorgeous scenery of Hawaii.
So I put it in my Netflix queue. The film is rated PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments. Though it didn’t do well at the box office, this romantic-comedy-drama is well worth a night at home with popcorn.
I have been a fan of Cameron Crowe since Say Anything, and Jerry McGuire. It is well written, although top heavy on the musical selections. Cameron is into music (see Almost Famous for a semi-autobiographical take on his life on the road with bands), and the almost ever-present music interfered at times with the flow of the movie.
The main characters are Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) and Allison (Emma Stone). (I have enjoyed both their careers since The Hangover and Easy A, the first two films I saw them in.) Brian has a job to do while in Hawaii, and is sweet, vulnerable, and a really great guy. Allison is a total air force military woman with a sharp salute and a mouth that fires at machine gun speed. She is charged with shadowing Brian, ostensibly to keep him out of trouble.
Complicating Brian’s life at this point is an old girlfriend, Tracey Woodside (Rachel McAdams), married to a strong, silent military man. They have two kids, Grace and Mitchell. Will Bradley and Rachel rekindle their love affair, or will he fall for Allison? What will happen with the space launch Brian is charged with completing for eccentric billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray)?
I enjoyed the emphasis on Native Hawaiians. We in the continental U.S. may forget that Hawaii was taken by force and coercion, just as it was for the many Native American tribes on the mainland. There is a deep connection to nature that European invaders did not bring with them from their own native peoples when North America and then Hawaii was conquered. The film touches on this connection to nature and spirituality, especially from Allison, who is one-quarter Hawaiian.
Issues no doubt still surface in Hawaii today between natives and the military, and I thought the film did a good job bringing this dynamic into perspective with a fictional, but plausible, story about the military throwing its weight around, along with rich, eccentric space junkie Carson Welch.
The word aloha translates from Hawaiian to “affection, peace, compassion and mercy,” an apt way to describe the characters’ journeys in this story.
The ending is really, really sweet, beautiful and unexpected. There are moments in the film where words are not used to express thoughts and feelings; Cameron allowed the actors to show what they were thinking through subtle expressions and body language, and nowhere is this more evident than in the ending.
I recommend this film. I liked the romance, the focus on the native Hawaiians, and the happy ending. (Next time though, Cameron, go easy with the music, please.)