ALOHA, the heartfelt 2015 romantic comedy written, co-produced and directed by Cameron Crowe received little of the title word’s essence, which encompasses, among other things, love & affection, compassion & mercy, grief and peace. Nearsighted critics who’d lauded the writer-director for his earlier hits now decided his direction needed their correction and dumped on his wistful offering like it was not an aromatic hibiscus, but a 2-inch tropical cockroach. “Whitewash” watchdogs bombed the Hawaiian idyll like it was Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th of ’41, unleashing enough “outrage” that the amiable auteur and one of his stars felt compelled to issue public apologies for their “insensitivity'” (in making a fictional story with “the wrong” people). Then the incurious public went elsewhere for a two-hour vacation, leaving a cheap tip of $26,300,000 against the meal prepared for somewhere between $37-52,000,000. Yet another absurd example of naysayers sinking a boat they were too blind to miss, Crowe’s Aloha blew up like the USS Arizona. Welcome to World War Woke. *
Jaded former military contractor ‘Brian Gilchrest’ (Bradley Cooper) returns to Oahu to make a deal with Native Hawaiians to develop property that shady billionaire ‘Carson Welch’ (Bill Murray) wants to turn into a space center. Gilchrest’s mission is complicated by the presence of his former love ‘Tracy’ (Rachel McAdams), now married with two pre-teen kids, and by getting involved with enthusiastic Air Force officer ‘Alison Ng'(Emma Stone), assigned to keep tags on Gilchest: she happens to be a quarter Hawaiian-American, a quarter Chinese-American, one half Scandinavian-American. Old flames, new sparks, locals suspicions vs. “national security”, touches of mysticism brush waves of guilt. Mixed motives sprout like copious refills of Mai Tai’s. Nummy on the way down, brutal the next morning.
Leaving aside the brouhaha aroused by casting Stone as a mixed-race person, if the script is to be faulted it could be for biting off more than is–to some–readily digestible. But the actors are so winning that quibbling over entangled themes in a rom-com, one daring for some breadth and sentiment to go with the laughs, only amounts to sour grapes (or mushy mangos), especially when the intent was obviously to affectionately entertain.
Cooper excels at mixing defensive sharpness, smart-aleck timing and soulful sensitivity. Stone and McAdams exude charm every time they look, move or speak. John Krasinski subtly aces the difficult role of McAdams laconic husband. As the kids, Jaeden Martell is amusing without being precocious and Danielle Rose Russell is allowed a lovely, moving scene near the finish. Playing himself is Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, the Nationalist leader and titular head of state of the group Nation of Hawai’i; he didn’t have a problem with Stone’s casting, which ought to carry weight unless you insist on toting an axe that can never be ground.
Ripe cinematography courtesy of Eric Gautier, nice scoring from Jónsi & Alex. With Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel and Ivana Miličević. 105 minutes that, even with its flaws, is miles better than its smeared reputation and reverse-bigotry banishment to 94th place in 2015.
* Even as the movie was being made, clumsy sabotage came via Sony Pictures front office in memos from co-chair Amy Pascal; her frustration with the film as it evolved became part of the 2014 “Sony hack”, which also included her stupid racially-pointed jibes about President Obama. Too powerful to be smart. As a result, Crowe’s project drew bad press before anyone who beefed had even seen the script, let alone any footage. The small but strident p.c. bandwagon went ballistic, enough that when it did come out Crowe had to eat crow and the abashed Stone had to blush all over the place for having the temerity to play (as in, like, uh, acting) someone of mixed race—never mind her character was half Swedish (no lobby). Hail Censorious! Eventually, alcoholics can only be played by drunks, soldiers can only be played by active-duty troops, scripts that have a canine barking will have to include an apology to dog lovers who are insulted because their ‘Ginger’ is well-behaved, and we can just completely dispense with that whole silly fiction biz while we’re rewriting history. If this fed-up-bleat has “offended” you because I enjoyed Aloha, well, we can only hope we’ll both somehow get past the trauma.