By Tim McEown

Mailed on June 02, 2015

Stamp image Junk

Dear Cameron Crowe

Dear Cameron,

We need to have a word.

By now, with less-than-supportive leaked emails and delayed press screenings, as well as a terrible first weekend, much of the world suspects that Aloha isn’t a very good film.

But it’s not bad in the sense that there are laughable continuity errors or boom mics in the shot. Production values aren’t the problem. And the concept isn’t necessarily a bad one to bring to life (unlike, say, Gus Van Sant’s recent bad-buzz release, Sea of Trees).

Somehow you have managed to take a number of potentially interesting elements—a beautiful location (Hawaii), a great cast (Bill Murray, Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams) as well as some intriguing geopolitics—and turned it all into something so ponderous that I’m surprised it didn’t drag the whole chain of volcanic islands back down to the bottom of the sea.

Aloha begins with an examination of a fairly new phenomenon—private enterprise and their increasing investment in the exploration and exploitation of space—and then promptly left turns into a cartoonish romcom. After that the tone, and the focus of the story, shift four or five times, until the film finally sputters to a halt.

Then there are the performances. Aloha really falls apart just twelve minutes in when, of all people, Bill Murray appears. I think he was caricaturing some awful hybrid of Richard Branson and Elon Musk. But, to be honest, it was hard to tell—his character was all over the map.

You know you’ve gone terribly wrong when Bill Murray is a net negative in your film.

Not to mention Emma Stone, who I usually quite like. But she was tied to a character so one dimensional that I began to dread every moment that she appeared on screen. It felt like watching a singularly unfunny friend do a twelve-minute bit on open mic night. Bradley Cooper’s character, a disgraced and ostensibly disabled veteran who’s injury comes and goes the same way Keanu Reeves’ accent did in Coppola’s Dracula, was so poorly articulated that it was never clear if we were meant to hope for his redemption or his comeuppance.

I’m not going to lie, Cameron. I’ve always found your films to be, at best, powder-puff entertainments laced with the kind of earnest, American exceptionalism that makes my teeth grind. But Aloha is irredeemable. Especially your contrived and awkward attempt to cover this film with a patina of Hawaiian spiritualism. That’s just fucking embarrassing.

I feel bad for everyone involved in this nonsense. Except for you. Because you should really know better. That you don’t, given how long you’ve been around, speaks to a kind of willful ignorance that I consider inexcusable.

Normally I try hard to find good things to say about every film I see but this thing stymied me at every turn. It is the crystallization of everything that is wrong with big studio filmmaking. Aloha is both cynical and manipulative, yet somehow also naïve and completely convinced of its own moral authority.

So here is my unsolicited advice.

Stop. Just stop.



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