Saturday, 20 June 2015

Movie Review: Aloha (2015)



As much as I have frequently shown pessimism about the films I review, I don’t think I’ve come across a film yet that has given me this much reason to do so. Between the laughably appalling tagline “Sometimes you have to say goodbye before you can say hello”, which rivals The Impossible’s “Nothing is more powerful than the human spirit” in terms of trite advertising, the extremely by-the-numbers plot as hinted at by the trailer and the sheer frequency at that trailer was shown, to the point where it has been playing in front of every film I’ve gone to see in the last couple months, I find myself largely sick of this movie before I even paid to see the thing. But, keeping in line with the feel-good mentality that permeates these kinds of films, I will try to keep an open mind about this… Let’s see how long that lasts. This is Aloha.

The plot: Contractor Brian (Bradley Cooper) has been sent to Hawaii to overlook the opening of a new pedestrian gate at the Air Force base, under the employ of billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). However, as he encounters his liaison Allison (Emma Stone) and re-encounters his ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams), he discovers that things are about to get a lot more complicated than he anticipated.

The more eagle-eyed readers out there can see the love triangle plot rearing its ugly head just from the plot synopsis, and while I share in most people’s disdain for the cliché, I will give credit where it’s due in that the casting to help sell this plot is about as ideal as it can get. The three main leads Cooper, McAdams and Stone have all proven themselves more than capable of delivering beyond the standard romantic drivel in Silver Linings Playbook, About Time and The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2 respectively. It also helps that they are bolstered by the likes of Murray and Alec Baldwin as Colonel Dixon. It is a real shame, therefore, that the casting is just about one of the few things that this film has going for it.

One of the bigger criticisms I’ve seen thrown at a lot of Adam Sandler’s latest rom-coms is that they serve as little else but excuses for the cast and crew to get a paid vacation, like with last year’s Blended. I can’t help but feel like something similar is happening here, along with being a pretty weak tourism ad for Hawaii. A lot of the production tries to keep itself centered in the culture of America’s state away from states, like with the mostly ukulele-driven soundtrack and injections of Hawaiian mythos. Of course, this is the kind of Hollywood fare that doesn’t dig any deeper into the culture than Blue Hawaii, to the point where a song from Blue Hawaii is featured on the soundtrack. It feels like it’s trying to make a point about the isle’s American occupation, but whatever notions it wants to make feel buried under the utter beige that is the core love story; that, and the possible attempt at commenting on the privatization of space exploration. I say ‘possible’ because it feels so slapped together, along with everything else that’s jumbled into the film, that I can’t even tell if it wants to make a statement or if it just wanted to find an easy way to make Carson Welch the bad guy.

If your romantic film features a main couple with next to no chemistry, you’re in major trouble; this film is head-first in it in that regard. The connection between Brian and Allison stays at a tepid level throughout, and because the writing concerning the love triangle including Tracy is so wonky, she doesn’t fare much better. Actually, the writing is a big factor in terms of harming the potential connection between the characters, given how bafflingly Crowe managed to screw up the simple concept of ‘action speak louder than words’ with John Krasinski as Tracy’s husband Woody. Because of the terrible execution there, his relationship with both Tracy and Brian is robbed of any emotional weight, right down to the concept being reduced to adding subtitles to their actions in a scene at the tail-end of the film. I feel bad whenever I have to do this but, yes, this is an actual thing that happens in the movie. Either Crowe has spent too much time making documentaries and doesn’t trust his ability to direct actors anymore, or this is some of the worst writing I’ve seen in a film this year. Then again, it could be both.

For the sake of fairness, there are some things to like about this film. Specifically, there are all of two things to like about this film: Murray and Baldwin. Despite how little screen time they have between them, or perhaps because of that, they seem to be the only two actors who do anything to try and elevate the dishwater dialogue that they’re given. Murray brings a certain charisma to his performance, made immediately present with his opening backrub scene, and actually makes for some fun moments like his dance sequence with Emma Stone. Baldwin, by contrast, goes largely into scenery chewing for his three scenes, with the roaring scene from the trailer as his definite highlight; then again, that might be because it’s also the longest consecutive time that Baldwin is actually on screen. If the film had more of these two and less of… pretty much everything else, this could’ve fared a bit better than it did.

All in all, this might be one of the most boring sits I’ve had to endure in a long time; not since The Tree Of Life have I considered a film to be this much of an endurance test. The acting is mostly feigning charm without actually showing it, save for the angels of mercy that are Murray and Baldwin, the writing takes cloying dialogue to its breaking point, the production is slap-shod together to the point of keeping in takes where the actors flubbed their lines, dead serious here, and the plot doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do or say. It’s worse than The Wedding Ringer, as at least that had moments that were well-above the baseline for better or for worse, but it’s still not as bad as Hot Tub Time Machine 2, since this film didn’t actively insult any of my sensibilities. Unless you’re in need of a quick nap that you don’t mind paying money for, there’s nothing to see here; as good as Bill Murray and Alec Baldwin may be, they are nowhere near enough to save this utterly pointless piece of nothing.

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