And John Krasinki

Starring: Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper

Review written by Robert D. Patrick

If Aloha had been insufferable, the headline would have been different. “Ha, Why Me?”, “Lei Me Down to Sleep,” or “Oh, no! Ahhh!” But Cameron Crowe’s wistful, sun-strafed luau of the soul came breaking into the shoreline, all foamy and comforting. Aside from a few dramatic footnotes with very obvious safety nets, Aloha is intentionally breezy fun. It’s a controller that can be picked up by anyone, played and put down with little resistance. The only tension in the film is fleeting; a prick from a cocktail umbrella. Because Aloha is so self-aware of its unrestrained cheerfulness, people will harangue the levity and otherworldly happiness of the film. Everything is crisp, friendly, and sanguine – even the villains are fun, erudite snakes.

Don’t be mistaken by the cloudless nature of Aloha – this movie is well-made. Crowe has been working with this fabric his whole career. This film could have corkscrewed into laziness; become a Hallmark card dusted with glitter. The difference is that the director believes in the supernatural strangeness of life, and his enthusiasm shows in each water specked scene. In the way that you have to believe in the absurdity of Wes Anderson’s pastels, you have to believe in the ludicrousness of Crowe’s whimsical escapism. He directs as if he’s in awe of life, and that kind of squid-eyed optimism is infectious.

Doing a Walter Payton sidestep away from the synopsis may be ill-advised, but there isn’t much to expound on. Bradley Cooper plays a “morally bankrupt” defense contractor with a heart of pyrite. Emma Stone plays a carbonated Air Force pilot, confounded by cynicism and the sterilization of mystery. Rachel McAdams is a mother grappling with the unease of her husband’s (John Krasinki) silence. Some of the dialogue is hokey, sure, but Crowe knows how to film his actors. McAdams’ eyes are smoky and weathered, clipped by time and disappointment. Stone’s enthusiasm is sunk into the corner pocket with one swift, gratifying strike. And Cooper manages to distract viewers enough to make them forget about his groan inducing role in Serena.

Aloha is a tango of effervescent shots and easy music. Though it may be vogue to assail Crowe’s films, he knows how to mix artifice and humanity in a way that is uniquely his own. I even wept – in a room full of critics. Others were sobbing, too, like Alderaan was just blown up for the first time. With all of its bizarre trappings – many of which don’t even work (a dated 2pac hologram joke?) – it’s stunning to know that Aloha still holds up as an effective film. Crowe has essentially made a 1940s movie set in Hawaii, filled with light humor and an empirically pleasing cast. And, for me, that’s okay.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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