By now Aloha is a widely recognized disaster. All that’s left is to sort through the rubble, draw lessons for future skirmishes (i.e.movies), and to debate whether or not Cameron Crowe’s career is in fact unwinnable. And though some of our finest military minds are all already on it (Amy Pascal: “I’m never starting a movie again when the script is ridiculous and we all know it”), I figured I should put in my two cents as a doctor of literature.
Most of the early attention has gone to the fill-in-the-blank -- clueless? -- typical? -- casting of Emma Stone as the part Chinese, part Native Hawaiian love interest of military contractor Bradley Cooper.
|Emma Stone weeping part of actual movie, not movie fallout|
In hindsight casting of haole-er than thou, Emma Stone as Allison Ng (“like ring, without the R,” as Emma Stone informs us) was wrong on various levels. Wrong for Cameron Crowe’s image (you're supposed to be a sensitive guy) and also wrong on a moral level (based on this movie not an actual concern).
Crowe has defended himself in a recent blog post by claiming that Ng is based on a “real life, red-headed local.” And it is indeed a running joke that Allison Ng, while claiming Hawaiian ancestry, does not convincingly look the part. Not a terrible joke in itself, but given the context of Hollywood movies forever casting Caucasian actors even in the few ethnic parts that come up, almost the definition of “punching down.” Not a good look, C.C.
But Cameron Crowe, for a guy who casts himself as a scruffy, alternate lifestyle, writer type (Singles, Almost Famous) has always been deeply attracted to power. Seriously, who else writes movies about successful sports agents (Tom Cruise) and successful sports shoe designers (Orlando Bloom)? The distinctive Crowe plot of a corporate-guy-gone-temporarily-askew-but-coming-back-as-an-even-more-lucrative-independent-contractor is very much in evidence in Aloha, a movie cluttered with powerful aging actors ←-male that is. The women remain distressingly a good 10 years younger than they should be reality-wise. In short, basically what you'd expect from a star reporter for Rolling Stone.
|Bill Murray as Aloha's Spirit Animal, Carson Welsh|
The love affair with power which forms the true story of Aloha, romantic comedy trappings aside, finds its true spirit animal in the character played by Bill Murray. “Carson Welsh” combines traits of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Bill Murray collecting a big paycheck for a few days sketchy work.
In a culture devoid of anything sacred, Billy Murray has become our bowling alley Buddha, dispensing wisdom and Bud Lights, as seen on Instagram. His appearance in Aloha is very much in this spirit, trading on accumulated good vibes while he gives Bradley Cooper a long backrub (so generous in a mega-billionaire!) and boogies with Sergeant Ng to Hall and Oates.
Alas, he turns out to be an evil plutocrat who wants to rule the world, but the movie’s iconography will have nothing to do with this minor plot point -- from his appearance as jolly Father Christmas (above) to when he is arrested by a bunch of military guys on a photographic isthmus, his beatific expression and white peasant shirt tell their own story of redemption and corporate jets. He is, more or less, God as CEO, shining his benevolent hipster light on the 99%.
I musn’t neglect Bradley Cooper, the star of the film. He meanders through the film with the slightly incredulous expression he wore when forced to act in a Major Motion Picture alongside a plastic baby doll.
Forgive me, Clint Eastwood. You made a serious movie about war and post-traumatic stress disorder with one little lapse. Aloha has borrowed your themes, your actor, and woven a lei of lapsed thoughts and fragrant bullshit.