Emma Stone ”Would Love” to Do a Broadway Show With Bradley Cooper (But …

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Aloha’ review: Bradley Cooper dramedy a pleasant experience.

There’s a scene in Cameron Crowe’s latest, Aloha, in which Emma Stone’s character describes Bradley Cooper’s as a compelling, innovative wreck of a man. “Before it all came apart there was greatness in this guy.” Is she also describing Crowe, a critical darling at the turn of the century whose later features — 2005’s Elizabethtown and 2011’s We Bought a Zoo — have been just plain mawkward (mawkish/awkward)?Our love for “Say Anything,” “Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire” made us embrace the big romantic gestures and faint traces of heart in “Elizabethtown,” “Vanilla Sky” and “We Bought a Zoo.” But “Aloha” is a breaking point, a movie that makes you start to see the guy as just, well, full of it.In the middle of Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha,” a character is revealed to have had an extra big toe accidentally stitched onto his own after a combat accident.

That the latest from writer/director Cameron Crowe isn’t a total disaster can be credited to players whose charisma helps paper over the screaming holes and loopy notions marring the doddering screenplay. At the very least she could be talking about the script for Aloha, which takes some good ideas, mixes in a few bad ones and blends the result into a dramatic quagmire. Whatever it was going to be — and editing has been a Crowe problem since 2005’s “Elizabethtown” — “Aloha” has been reduced to a lurching Hawaiian comedy full of big name actors making long, rushed speeches.

This illogical surgical snafu is emblematic of the film itself, a jumble of too many plots involving characters who almost never talk or act like real people. These performers are just good enough to wrest a few memorable moments from the general chaos of an eccentric romantic comedy that isn’t particularly romantic or funny. He’s once again associating with the uberwealthy entrepreneur, Carson Welch (Billy Murray); Welch and the U.S. army are working on a joint space project. It jumps from economic commentary to an old romance to a new romance to Hawaiian nationalism to mysticism about the spirit world to an ending so blithely nonsensical a Pixar movie would reject it.

Where’d you go, Cameron Crowe? “Aloha,” the writer/director’s latest sort-of romantic comedy, limps to the screen with such flat-footedness, you wonder how its creator ever achieved such heights as “Say Anything” and “Almost Famous.” Its highlight, I’m sorry to say, is a moment in which an irate Alec Baldwin (maybe he just read the script?) addresses Bradley Cooper as “Mr. There are grand, romantic speeches that will endure forever from Crowe’s earlier work — “Jerry Maguire,” “Say Anything . . .” — but you can’t build an entire movie on them. Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a former pilot and soldier, now a military contractor, who lands in Hawaii to help oversea the launch of a new satellite by billionaire Carson Welch.

Gilcrest has only a small assignment, which is to use his influence and friendship with a Native Hawaiian leader (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele) to get a blessing done and an obstacle to the space project removed. Crowe wastes Bradley Cooper, whose indifferent performance makes his work in “The Hangover” seem complex, and capable actors – Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, John Krasinski – stuck in unfleshed parts. Three-Day Beard Boy.” This is rather delicious, to be sure — I may never look at Cooper and his movie-star fuzz again without hearing Baldwin thundering — but really, is that all there is? He has returned to his old stomping grounds in Hawaii as an employee of multibillionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), who has invested heavily in a private rocket program and needs the blessing of native Hawaiian leaders to pave over some public relations potholes. Brian is met by Colonel “Fingers” Lacy (possibly the most annoying role ever taken by Danny McBride) and introduced to his military liaison, Allison Ng (Stone).

The regular business involves Bill Murray as a puckishly unshaven (am I sensing a theme here?) gazillionaire industrialist who’s Brian’s boss; the unfinished business centers on Tracy (Rachel McAdams), the Girl Who Got Away some 13 years ago. Stone wears her “Top Gun” flight suit and Ray-Bans like a champ, but she’s supposed to read as too-eager and dorky — and it just doesn’t fly (so to speak). “Can you think of a way to make ‘I’m a fighter pilot’ sound sexy?” she responds when asked why she’s single. Brian’s assignment is to look up his old friend, the king of the nativist Nation of Hawaii (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele, playing himself), and secure said blessing. She’s now married to a cuddly silent type named Woody (John Krasinski), but her 12-year-old daughter bears an uncanny resemblance, we’re unsubtly informed, to Brian.

Brian is back in Hawaii at the little “Mayberry of a base” where he was once stationed to talk the natives into blessing a gate that’s being moved so big rockets can be moved from location to location. Meanwhile, fighter pilot and military captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), assigned to baby-sit Brian during his mission, falls for him, which she expresses primarily by calling him “sir” a lot. The movie has wonderful madness built into it — a dancing scene with Bill Murray and Emma Stone, for example, or a manic confrontation with a high-ranking General (Alec Baldwin).

This is a lot of plot, and virtually none of it is believable, even considering the heft of this cast — you’d think this gang could make anything sing, wouldn’t you? They have a daughter (Danielle Rose Russell) and a precocious son (Jaeden Lieberher) obsessed with Hawaiian mythology, in a plot quirk that never really pays off.

It includes magical children (and wonderful performances from Danielle Rose Russell and Jaeden Lieberher as those children) and the story incorporates elements of the Hawaiian spiritual world and the way of Aloha. Brian has lingering feelings, and Tracy’s marriage is in trouble, because Woody never talks — perhaps the worst thing you can say of someone in a Crowe movie, where nervous rambling doubles as foreplay.

The arrival of her old flame — even in his semi-decrepit condition — exacerbates Tracy’s doubts about her marriage and a husband whose verbal communications are painfully limited. Brian has to arrange to move some sort of gate to aid in launching a satellite, plot points I’d be ashamed to admit I didn’t understand — if it weren’t for a leaked Sony email in which former studio co-chair Amy Pascal noted: “The satellite makes no sense.

The Crowe who justly won an Oscar for the script of “Almost Famous” would not have written the line “You’ve sold your soul so many times no one’s buying any more.” Nor would he have created a scene where Cooper and Krasinski converse in “man-speak,” touching each other’s shoulders meaningfully while subtitles explain their thoughts. Allison starts out all spit and polish with a salute so sharp it snaps air molecules, but after a few days as Brian’s wingman her military bearing turns all gee-whiz girly.

Crowe keeps the camera right in his characters’ faces, which adds to the intimacy of the tale; above all, he seems to have lured Bill Murray away from that precious place known as Wes Andersonville. Crowe flits restlessly among too many topics; Hawaiians who want to expel white haoles from their land would make a fascinating story, but it’s wedged in here as a gimmick. (I did like the T-shirt that read “Hawaiian by birth, American by force.”) And the sentimental streak Crowe has always shown no longer has irony to temper it.

We never learn enough about Gilcrest to know why a former flame carries a torch after 13 years, or why Ng – who stands for everything he seems not to believe – loves him at a first meeting. All this, plus some dialogue that’s occasionally “50-Shades-of-Grey”-without-the-sex-bad (“I don’t want to wind up a decal on your laptop,” says poor Captain Ng, earnestly), and the result is a movie that’s well-meaning but nearly unwatchable. There are a handful of moments to relish: Murray and Stone memorably take to the dance floor for Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That.” Alec Baldwin bellows insults as a perennially irritated general. For instance, what 10-year-old, regardless of precocity, accosts a relative stranger with the question: “Why would anyone break up with my mom?” And who reads a heartfelt letter from their husband out loud to an ex-boyfriend? But given its Hawaiian setting and soundtrack, “Aloha” mostly feels like a descendant of Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” — and a minor one at that.

And Cooper — who seems pretty dour this time around — has a fine, funny scene explaining to Tracy how her husband communicates eloquently without actually opening his mouth. Brian sighs nostalgically that he got his first telescope in ’83, “the summer of the Iridium flares,” when in fact Iridium satellites didn’t start launching for another 15 years, and seeing them flare doesn’t require a telescope. Danny McBride plays a base commander with all the restraint he brings to the role of an alcoholic baseball player (which is to say no restraint at all); Alec Baldwin shows up as a general who’s more Jack Donaghy of “30 Rock” than Omar Bradley. The film’s satellite subplot, meanwhile, weaves in elements of early James Bond movie villainy, bolstered by the fact that the multi-million-dollar ocean launch platform appears to be a model that was filmed in a bathtub. (Also, a note to the director: In space, no one can hear you scream.

Sadly, in this case, “Aloha” doesn’t mean “hello” or even “welcome back, Cameron Crowe.” It feels more like good-bye, at least to Crowe’s career as a major studio film director. Thank heavens for Stone and McAdams, who inhabit their roles with far more conviction than this effort deserves, and for Krasinski, who exudes decency without having to say much of anything. His eclectic musical taste brings a few oldies — The Who, Tears for Fears, Hall & Oates — to the soundtrack, but 90% of the music is Hawaiian, with the unfortunate result that it feels like he just swiped it from Alexander Payne after The Descendants.

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