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FILM REVIEW: ALOHA (PG) (USA, 2015)



Aloha tells the story of skeptical military contractor, Brian Gilcrest’s (Bradley Cooper), who returns to Hawaii after losing himself to the “grey side” of the military. It is here he is given a fresh start with the military and is reunited with his ex girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams) after 7 years of lost contact. With the company of his “baby sitter”, Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), Brian faces these old ghosts and realises that it is actually he who is doing the haunting.

A catharsis is exactly what director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) tries to achieve with Aloha. Unlike other romantic comedies that use cheap tricks to establish romance to push a narrative along, Alohaexplores the inner “Mana” (Hawaiian spiritual energy) of the relationship between characters through a simple exercise of honesty. “Trust” is the Achilles heel of Brian and as an antidote to his skepticism, everyone gives him the benefit of the doubt, believing him just as Captain Ng believes in the ceremonies of the native Hawaiians. This “trust” can then be extended to America’s military occupation of Hawaii, asking the question of whether or not Gilcrest will exploit these people, and as a result, exploit Hawaii.

Interestingly though, native Hawaiians make up a disappointingly small number of characters in this film, and because of that Aloha operates within a bubble, conveniently using the “spirituality” of Hawaii as catalyst, and by doing so occasionally belittles the actual spirituality of Hawaii itself. Captain Ng’s quips of (paraphrased) “I’m a quarter Hawaiian therefore I am in touch with the Mana of this place” are unbelievable and unrelatable.

On the other side of the spectrum, the dialogue in Aloha is actually quite interesting; akin to a play. The banter and conversations that pervade the movie are carefully constructed and quietly hilarious. This is typical of Crowe, and because of this the characters are very upfront and exposed. It comes as no surprise then that Bill Murray also features in this film, playing himself in the guise of a blunt billionaire. Military scenes starring Alex Baldwin as a temperamental General and Danny McBride, are also a hilarious treat. However, the true gems of this film are the unspoken moments, with a greater dialogue existing in the movements, gestures and glances between characters.

Unfortunately, the narrative is quite predictable. You know where the story is going and everything is alluded to before it has even been said or delivered. Gilcrest knowingly falls for the excitable, ethically sound and puppy eyed Captain Ng, played by the flawless Emma Stone, and later on his conscience is compromised because of it. It is the textbook example of a selfish character sacrificing himself, taking a “leap of faith” and righting his wrongs. So in this way, the overall narrative isn’t disarmingly original. However interesting moments within Tracy’s family and her relationship with her husband Woody (John Krasinski) and children were poignant and their performances worth note.

It was these “in between moments”, witty dialogue and the honest performance of the supporting cast that made Aloha an enjoyable film experience, if not an original or authentic one.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

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