“Aloha”: Reliving This Decade’s Worst Movie Catastrophe
by Christine Friar, Lindsay Robertson, and Lindsey Weber
Aloha, the 2015 Cameron Crowe film starring Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Bill Murray and Alec Baldwin, arrives on video and digital streaming this Tuesday. The film, originally titled Deep Tiki, was panned by critics, ignored by audiences, and even trashed by then-Sony president Amy Pascal as “ridiculous” and making “no sense” in the December 2014 Sony hack. It will likely find a place in history as one of the worst studio films ever made — certainly the worst with its cast, marketing budget, and ambitions.
Thanks to word-of-mouth and just plain old curiosity, the three of us saw it individually. This is the conversation we were compelled to have about it — out of sheer disbelief, because none of us can deal.
A note about spoilers: duh. And also, because the movie makes no sense, we didn’t bother trying to “explain” it. That being said, if you plan to see Aloha (and we actually recommend you try it!), see it first and then come back! BECAUSE IT IS TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY INSANE, so you might also need this conversation as therapy. We’re here for you.
Lindsay R.: You guys, this movie is completely insane! It’s like it was originally a 10-hour TV series that had to be cut down to a 100 minute movie, and they cut it by showing us scenes chosen completely at random!!
Lindsey W.: Thank god you watched it so I am no longer alone. I saw it pop up on [my special place where I sometimes find movies] at like 11:30 last night and had to watch it in full. IT IS FUCKING MIND-BOGGLING. Like, to the point where you wonder how any of these talented actors (well, most of them) read the script all the way through, memorized its words, and then STILL decided to be a part of it. What the fuck are they even doing in Hawaii? Why are they doing things in space? What is Bradley Cooper’s job? What is anyone’s job? Why is Bill Murray is there? What’s with the fucking laptop stickers? Why are LAPTOP STICKERS even a thing?
Note: In case you missed it, Emma Stone plays Alison Ng — who is one-quarter Hawaiian,one-quarter Chinese, and half Swedish.
Lindsey W.: So Emma Stone is supposed to be “unlikeable” and “uptight” in this film? Cool, we get it. She’s in the military and wears her hair in a bun and stuff like that. But how did Emma Stone, the actress, while really getting into character, not realize that the whole one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Hawaiian thing might not go over well? Girl, DID YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE SCENE WHERE YOU PLAY GUITAR AND SING TRADITIONAL HAWAIIAN SONGS? DID YOU HEAR YOURSELF SPEAK HAWAIIAN?
Lindsay R.: The casting of Emma Stone as this character got harshed in the media, for good reason, but the weirdest thing about Emma Stone playing someone whose father is half-Hawaiian and half-Chinese is the Chinese part plays absolutely no role in the story of the film! She could have just been a quarter Hawaiian and maybe that would have offended moviegoers less, but no, she has to just volunteer that information. Also, this has been much-discussed, but all the Hawaiian Spooky Mystery shit is so obviously offensive (“Hawaiian leprechauns!”) that someone — anyone — should have called it out.
Also, she’s really into Space Law. Space law.
Christine: Also the movie TRIES TO GRAPPLE WITH THE TENSION BETWEEN NATIVE HAWAIIANS AND NON-NATIVE HAWAIIANS. How do you cast a film trying to take on that project — even extracurricularly — and not go, “Hm, maybe I don’t cast America’s Caucasian Sweetheart for this role.”
Christine: That aside, I think my favorite part of this movie was that it had no tone or stakes. It’s breathtaking. Like an hour into it I was still scream-cheering, “IT DOESN’T KNOW IF IT’S A ROM-COM OR A DRAM-COM YET!!!!!” at the TV. Are we supposed to root for Bradley Cooper to get back with Rachel McAdams? For him to bang it out with manic pixie dream soldier Emma Stone? No one knows! Scenes just happen! Without any pace or rhythm or correlativity! It’s like the Super Bowl of bad narrative art.
Lindsay R.: Also…it’s…Christmas in the movie? It’s a Christmas film? At times watching this film, I thought maybe I was on mushrooms.
Lindsey W.: It’s magic! Yes, there’s a Christmas tree. Bill Murray decorates it. You know, I feel like we give a lot of leeway to Bill Murray doing things that are inexplicable in real life, so we were expected to just buy whatever stupid shit he did in this film? I am still honestly reeling from the scene where John Krasinski and Bradley Cooper speak telepathically and they (well, Cameron Crowe) subtitle it like it’s A Real Thing that we’re supposed to believe and understand? It’s closer to the end so you’re like WAIT DO ALL THE CHARACTERS SPEAK TO EACH OTHER WITH THEIR MINDS IN THIS MOVIE? Is this some sort of Fight Club situation where I have to go back and re-watch with this in mind???? Oh god.
Lindsay R.: This was one of the times I thought I was on mushrooms.
Christine: Men aren’t like us, guys. There’s a whole language they’re speaking at all times without us even knowing it. Things like, “Did you sleep with my wife?” and, “My penis is big.” Also, off-topic, but John Krasinski playing butch was very uncomfortable to watch. Much more so than an eager beaver Emma Stone. Potentially the movie’s unsung Weirdest Aspect.
Lindsay R.: Hey, so exactly when does Bradley Cooper become A FUCKING HACKER? Like, he vaporized the work of a group of CHINESE MILITARY HACKERS in a few minutes on his sticker-covered gigantic PC “unit.”
Lindsey W.: Yes, the same laptop Cameron Crowe uses as a metaphor for love and relationships? Again, laptop stickers will never be the same.
Christine: Here’s the thing: sometimes you are secretly a hacker all along and it never comes up because you’re deciding whether to bone your estranged ex and your current co-worker. It’s a lot to have on your mind. And the first thing to fall by the wayside in a situation like that is the conversation where you disclose having this very specific skill that’s integral to both the plot and national security. It’s like, at the end of the day, the human heart is life’s real battlefield. Damn.
Lindsay R.: Can we talk about how long the characters know each other in this movie? Because the entire film takes place over a period of 5 to 7 days, yet Bradley Cooper hates Emma Stone, falls in love with her, insinuates himself into Rachel McAdams and John Krasinski’s marriage and family, negotiates with native Hawaiians to build some kind of “pedestrian gate,” reverses the work of Chinese hackers to launch a satellite, sabotages the satellite, gets in trouble for that, is redeemed for that by new information, and does the totally nuts thing in the final scene that we’ll discuss later ALL IN THIS VERY SHORT TIME PERIOD. Also, Emma Stone manages to change HER ENTIRE PERSONALITY also in this short time period. Also, all the while he interacts with all the people he has JUST MET (or seen for the first time in over a decade) with a familiarity of tone reserved in real life for people who have known each other for years.
Christine: There’s also the entire last scene to address.
Lindsey W.: Right. The part when Bradley Cooper stands outside his biological daughter’s dance class and “tells” her he’s her biological father by just staring at her? Super intensely? And because we’ve already introduced MAGIC into this movie, she “gets it”, runs out and hugs him, and runs back in. That scene???????
Lindsay R.: Yes.
1: It is not socially acceptable for a grown man to watch a twelve-year-old girl in her dance class for an extended period of time, through glass, from the street. It’s creepy.
2: Bradley Cooper and his now-daughter have barely even interacted in the movie.
3: It is not cool to tell a twelve-year-old that you’re her biological father without the permission of her parents! Even if you do it only with your eyes.
4: HOW would the daughter even KNOW he was “saying” that with his eyes? The normal reaction would be to be like “Why is that creepy man who has come over to our house two times staring at me in my dance class with a creepy smile?”
5. Even if she somehow did know that that is what he was saying, which the movie strongly implies, her reaction to the news that her loving father is not her bio father would be devastation, not running out to hug the creepy man she met less than a week ago who is watching her dance class and smiling!
Christine: THAT FINAL SCENE WAS ABSOLUTELY BANANAS AND THERE’S NO WAY IT WAS ANY BETTER WRITTEN ON A PAGE/JUST EXECUTED POORLY. Like, okay, so this girl has met this man — a friend of her mom’s — twice now. If he SHOWED UP OUTSIDE HER DANCE LESSON and STARED AT HER AT LENGTH THROUGH A PLATE GLASS WINDOW there is NO WAY her reaction would be a FULL-AND-NUANCED REALIZATION THAT HE’S HER REAL FATHER because she has NO REASON to doubt that John Krasinski is her father. What? She dances and he’s a hardass? Is that the entire basis of her suspicion? And then seeing this one man one time outside her dance studio makes the pieces CLICK in her mind like — OH! This must be my FATHER. If this scene were just a smile and a wave that let Bradley realize his secret daughter is a good kid, sure. Corny, but whatever. But for her to reach A FULL-BLOWN, LIFE-ALTERING REALIZATION and initiate a TEARFUL EMBRACE and then WORDLESSLY RUN BACK IN TO CONTINUE HER LESSON is the behavior of a psychic and an alien. “Hi I’m twelve and just realized you, a stranger who came over for dinner, are my dad, so hey but also ttyl I have to get back to this run of the mill, low-stakes Wednesday night dance class because…” Why? She loves structure? Maybe she’s John Krasinski’s daughter after all.
Lindsey W.: Not even a cool soundtrack could save this one, Cameron.
Christine: It’s so bad that you have to assume there was an alternate ending slash the movie has been made this horrible by studio surgery. Like, I believe that it was going to be corny no matter what, but it actually makes no sense. No one acts like that. Everyone was an alien. Has someone called Cammy Crowe and made sure he’s okay?
Lindsay R.: At one point early on, Emma Stone squeezes Bradley’s leg and then says, “I’m just making sure we’re still alive.” He answers, “Are we?” THAT SUMS UP THE ENTIRE MOVIE.
Christine Friar lives and writes in New York.
Lindsay Robertson has been told by 19 strangers that she has the same voice as Emma Stone.
Lindsey Weber is a writer who recently changed coasts.