Life has been anything but a beach for "Aloha," Cameron Crowe's Hawaii-set romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper as a jaded defense contractor, Emma Stone as his new love interest and Rachel McAdams as a former flame.
After being criticized for cultural insensitivity, badmouthed in leaked Sony emails and pushed back on the release calendar, the movie is now being panned by many film critics who find it overstuffed and incoherent.
One of the few favorable reviews comes from The Times' Mark Olsen, who writes, "Even with its off-balance, overstuffed storytelling, ['Aloha'] maintains a charm and energy that never flags, with brisk pacing and generally engaging performances from its deep-bench cast." (Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski are among the supporting players.)
Olsen adds, "With its unguarded emotions and romantic earnestness, 'Aloha' may simply be a movie not for this moment, its pre-release bad luck run a sign of some core disconnect. Rather, it is a film of moments, fleeting flashes and extended instants that may not entirely add up but are delightful on their own."
Suffice it to say, many reviewers feel differently.
Variety's Andrew Barker writes, "Unbalanced, unwieldy, and at times nearly unintelligible, 'Aloha' is unquestionably Cameron Crowe's worst film. Paced like a record on the wrong speed, or a Nancy Meyers movie recut by an over-caffeinated Jean-Luc Godard, the film bears all the telltale signs of a poorly executed salvage operation disfigured in the editing bay."
Barker adds that "it's hard to understand how a writer-director as good as [Crowe] is could make a film this thoroughly scattered and dysfunctional. Sometimes 'Aloha' almost feels like an expression of frustration, a frantic feature-length attempt to bundle all his narrative tics and stray emotional bric-a-brac into a rocket and blast it off into space."
A bit less scathing is the Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden, writing, "If one thing is clear in the deeply confused 'Aloha,' it's Cameron Crowe's affection for the Hawaiian landscape and native culture. His off-the-tourist-track look at Honolulu abounds with intriguing views of unexpected terrain and offers a glimpse of the indigenous population's independence movement. All of which suggests a far more compelling movie than the muddled redemption story he's made."
The film, Linden writes, "has the awkward feel of a repository for everything but the kitchen sink. The chemistry is mostly forced, the story without an emotional core. And though Crowe's facility for language can be striking, here it never moves beyond self-consciousness."
In the context of Crowe's filmography, " 'Aloha' is a tick up from the dregs of 'Elizabethtown' and a tick down from 'We Bought a Zoo,' " according to the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips. He continues, "Despite a blue-chip cast, 'Aloha' is just frustrating. It can barely tell its story straight, and Crowe's attempt to get back to the days of 'Jerry Maguire' and 'Almost Famous' is bittersweet in ways unrelated to the narrative's seriocomic vein."
The film does offer "some moments," Phillips says, "most of them thanks to McAdams. She can make truth out of contrivance, often nonverbally, dramatizing contradictory impulses within a single moment."
Similarly, the Associated Press' Lindsey Bahr says that despite having "a charming, of-the-moment cast" and "a compelling-on-paper story … in execution, 'Aloha' is a meandering, needlessly confusing cacophony of story, performance, and spiritual blather. Not only does it feel inauthentic, it's often downright alien."
McAdams and Cooper's scenes together "are the film's rare bright spot and a reminder of Crowe's unique strength as an idiosyncratic voice," Bahr continues. "It's not enough, though. 'Aloha' either needed more focus or more time to say what it wanted to say. But perhaps this is the earnest failure Crowe needs to get back in gear."
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