Aloha (2014) – Film Review

When a picturesque Hawaiian landscape and an all-star cast aren’t enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen, you know you’re in trouble…

In the early 2010’s Bradley Cooper starred in one of the greatest modern day romance movies, you might of heard of it, a little film by the name of “Silver Linings Playbook”. Ever since then, whenever his name is attached to anything in the realm of romance there seems to be this expectation that he’ll be able to capture the same lightning in a bottle and produce another genre defining classic. I personally don’t believe that expectation to be fair or realistic, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask for a film that won’t have me counting down the time until the lights come back on in the theatre. I asked for too much.


Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), a once distinguished military officer whose career came to a disgraceful end after a series of backdoor dealings in Afghanistan, returns to Hawaii after a thirteen-year absence. This time he’s under the employment of Billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray) and has been tasked with negotiating with Hawaiian natives to allow for the launch of Welch’s private satellite and to perform a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony.

He’s accompanied on his mission by Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), a wide-eyed Air Force liaison of quarter-Hawaiian descent whose appreciation of the culture is clear for all to see. Brian’s arrival on the island was brought about by business obligations, but it isn’t long before the opportunity to rekindle an old flame in the form of Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams) presents itself – seemingly unsatisfied with her current marriage to Woody (John Krasinksi) and with two children. After catching up, Brian comes to realise that they have more attachments than he had realised. It remains to be seen if this is a chance closure or a reopening of an unfinished chapter.

Aloha is at its core a poorly-handled redemption story. It’s alluded to and mentioned in spells throughout the film that Brian (Bradley Cooper) has a grimy past, but then there isn’t much after that. He doesn’t really carry any traits that would suggest that he’s not to be trusted, I mean, even after not seeing him for thirteen-years, his ex decides that it would be a great idea to invite him to her home and share a meal in the presence of her family. Overall, he’s definitely got more good qualities than bad ones, but that’s not saying much. He basically just exists. You just feel like if the story steered more into the shadier elements of his character or the trauma he suffered whilst on the frontline of the war in Afghanistan it would’ve made for a much more interesting central character.

That’s Not White. The development of characters (or lack there of) doesn’t allow for any emotional investment in their love story. Basically, “if you guys end up together that’s cool, and if you don’t, that’s cool too”. Unfortunately the characterisation and casting issues don’t stop at the criminal underuse of Rachael McAdams, there’s something inherently wrong with the DNA of this film – the casting of Emma Stone as Captain Ng. The problem isn’t Emma Stone per se, amongst the pool of a-list actors frustratingly being wasted, Emma really commits to her role and is given ample screen time to showcase her enthusiasm and she sells it really well! Unfortunately, this role wasn’t hers to play, Captain Ng is supposed to be of quarter-Chinese and quarter-Hawaiian descent, Emma Stone doesn’t fall under either ethnic group or any ethnic group outside of Caucasian. Her portrayal of this character caused widespread backlash from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities because it reinforced the whitewashing that has traditionally been so rampant in Hollywood. There’s a running joke that Captain Ng is of Hawaiian origin but feels the need to overcompensate because she doesn’t like like a typical Hawaiian due to her mixed heritage. The Director, Cameron Crowe, said that he intentionally cast her to meet the needs of that character, but in a world where we have blue people represented in Avatar, I find it hard to believe that there was no one else who could’ve played this role. At the very least it’s a joke that didn’t land, at the most, it’s offensive.

It’s worth noting that Emma Stone has since apologised (many times) for taking this role.

The positives? Hawaii looks good! There’s a lot to like about this film and none of it comes from the plot or the characters. Hawaii itself beautiful and the establishing shots of the waves crashing against the shore and the constellations at night are stunning. If there’s one thing this film gets right, it’s the cinematography.

If the names Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and Bill Murray weren’t in the listing you wouldn’t be watching it and in a Hawaiian based love story they probably shouldn’t have been the first names called on to fill the cast sheet. Aloha is predictable, undercooked and forgettable.

I watched it so that you wouldn’t have to...