A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Aloha, a military-themed romantic comedy written and directed by Cameron Crowe, follows the adventures of a military contractor (Bradley Cooper) who returns to Hawaii for a job and faces an ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams), a former boss whom he feels betrayed him, and an Air Force pilot whom he can't resist (Emma Stone). In short, it's a complicated affair about love, work, and redemption that's thematically a better fit for teens and adults than for younger viewers. Expect some swearing ("hell," "s--t," and a use of "f--k"), social drinking by adults (sometimes to the point of getting drunk), some innuendoes/comments about hooking up, kissing, and references to hardship in Afghanistan.
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What's the story?
It's been years since Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), a former Air Force-pilot-turned-defense-contractor, has been in Hawaii, and now it's time to return. But he's troubled: A trip to Afghanistan on business went awry, leaving him injured. His ex-girlfriend, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), now married to another Air Force pilot (John Krasinski), is still in Hawaii, and she and Brian have unfinished business to discuss. And then there's his security detail, Alison Ng (Emma Stone) -- an Air Force pilot with a glittering future -- whom Brian can't quite resist but is worried he'll bring down. Meanwhile, his millionaire boss (Bill Murray) may have plans for the island that will have repercussions for years to come, and Gilcrest isn't sure he wants to be a part of them.
Is it any good?
That Cameron Crowe is a gifted director has never been under debate, but his gifts aren't on full display in Aloha. It's an interesting but muddled mix of romance, personal journey, marital strife, wartime reckoning, and environmentalism, all sprinkled with a hint of mystery and mysticism. In short, the film is confusing, and it feels a little manipulative, too. We sense that Crowe wants us to feel things, and we sort of want to, but it also feels a little forced. And tone-wise, the movie jumps around, alienating viewers. Just when we settle into the romance, the focus shifts to mysticism, and the two don't exactly feel connected.
Aloha does work on the human level, especially when Gilcrest has to reckon with his ex. Cooper and McAdams bring humanity to their roles. But Stone, while she's still delightful (though it's worth noting that she plays a part-Asian, part-Hawaiian character, neither of which she is), seems to playing in a different key, turning in a performance that's a little too broad for such a personal movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Aloha views relationships. Why does it propose that they fail? Are there important takeaways here? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding relationships.
The film looks at the intersection of Mother Nature, mysticism, and commercialism. What is it trying to say about how Hawaii (and the rest of the planet) is being shaped by commerce and military interests?
Some have balked at Emma Stone being cast as a part-Asian, part-Hawaiian character. How do you feel about that decision?
How are the after-effects of war addressed in movies that aren't directly about war? Why do you think movies take specific positions on issues like private business taking over public space?
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