Romantic comedies are supposed to be a little silly. They are comedies, after all, but Aloha may just be one of the silliest movies I’ve ever seen. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, but I definitely don’t mean it in a good way, either. It’s hard to explain. It’s a strange jumble of military talk, space talk, ancient Hawaiian legends, lip biting, fast-talking, and Bradley Cooper being a weirdo. I can’t really tell if Aloha is the most awkward, weird, and uncomfortable romantic comedy I’ve ever seen, or if I just don’t understand the genre at all. To be honest, it might actually be a little bit of both.
Aloha begins with Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) landing in Honolulu. After messing up a project and being injured while working in Afghanistan, he’s finally been brought back to Hawaii as a military contractor for the eclectic billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). He’s immediately assigned to Air Force pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone) whose job is basically to make sure he stays out of trouble. Because Oahu is a pretty small island, he also runs into his ex Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams) as soon as he steps off the plane. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Gilcrest falls hard for the manic Allison, while his beautiful ex (who is now married with kids) starts to consider what life would be like if she was Mrs. Gilcrest.
When you lay it out like that, Aloha sounds like your basic romantic comedy, but because this is a Cameron Crowe film, it gets a little more unconventional than that. The movie is basically a modern day retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but with more Hawaiian legends, military families, and less interesting characters. At times, it even feels like a couple different movies tangled together. Some scenes are completely normal (and by normal, I mean cheesy) romantic comedy scenes. Other times characters are blathering on about space and the military while attributing small daily occurrences (like a window blowing open) to Hawaiian ghosts.
Besides a mishmash of seemingly unrelated topics, everyone in this movie is basically a caricature. Bradley Cooper is way too cool and damaged to be loved throughout almost all of the film. Emma Stone is so hyped about everything that it kind of stressed me out watching her (no one can be that excited all of the time). Rachel McAdams bit her lip so much that I thought it might actually fall off. On the other hand, Bill Murray basically plays the same charming, wealthy, weirdo that he always does, and it was delightful (as usual). I don’t know why he gets a pass, he just does.
There are a few scenes in the movie, however, where Crowe’s soundtrack picking abilities get to shine and the cast gets to act a little more natural. The Christmas party is particularly fun, not only because the music is good, but we get to all of the characters relax. Stone and Murray getting down on the dance floor is ridiculous, in a good way. It was one of the few scenes that felt like the movie had achieved its goal of showcasing the complicated relationships between these people in this beautiful place.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the embarrassing parts. The build up to Cooper and Stone’s relationship is downright to watch. Not to mention, most of the time it felt like the Hawaiian culture was being treated like a fun prop. Especially with Stone’s character mentioning that she’s a quarter Hawaiian every five minutes.
The problem with Aloha is that it always felt disjointed. Crowe was trying to do too many things at once, and none of them really worked out. The few times he does get it right, you can catch glimpses of the movie Aloha could have been. It was always going to be silly, I just wish it would have been more fun instead of uncomfortable.