Aloha follows Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), a military contractor's lackey, to his old stomping grounds in Hawaii. The film is set largely in the context of the sketchy befuddlement that is the evolving privatization of the United States Military (excepting Tony Stark, obvs). Amongst these weeds of dastardly manipulation, though, a very pure and human love takes root.
Before even arriving in the island state, Gilcrest is confronted by the past. The pilot of his plane is his old friend, Woody (John Krasinski). Woody is married to Gilcrest's former girlfriend, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who is at the airport when the plane lands. Enter the stanchion of positive work attitudes, Allison Ng (Emma Stone), and queue the emotional rollercoaster of past meeting present.
Gilcrest is a man who may have, at one time, had idealistic visions of his future, but circumstance, time, and greed brought him to the employ and exploitation of billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). Welch, in return, earns his money through the exploitation of America's most lucrative commodity: fear. Karma is already in hot pursuit of both men well before Aloha's storyline begins.
Gilcrest is confronted with the cowardice of his past as Tracy is able to exorcize some demons. She does so in the form of inviting him to a family dinner at the home she shares with Woody and their two children. Ng is also invited, and the awkwardness begins it's relentless journey. Watching these characters interact is endearingly painful, and often very funny.
Bradley Cooper is the kind of actor I've always tried very hard to resent, largely due to his James-Bond-esque air of physical and intelligent sophistication. I mean, have you seen him when he is speaking French? It is obnoxiously and impossibly sexy; I keep pegging him for a shallow frat brother, and he turns around and bewilders me with his piercing eyes and intellect.
There is no denying he is a phenomenal actor. His ability to portray the raw humanity of us all can be quite stunning, and his role in Aloha as Brian Gilcrest does not disappoint.
Playing Gilcrest's old friend/nemesis, John Krasinski also executes his role flawlessly. I imagine the part could have been written specifically for him based on his performance as Jim Halpert on The Office. Krasinski mainlines humility and intuitive sensitivity with the ease of a seasoned junkie.
Rachel McAdams plays the role of Gilcrest's long-ago love. She subtly evokes the pain of a heart broken wide open long ago, and compliments each of the other actors seamlessly. Emma Stone, on the other hand, takes any semblance of subtly and ejects it violently from the get-go. Granted, her character is ebullient and young and full of life, but Stone plays it like a really talented singer might perform while falling-down drunk.
Aloha is genuinely a very sweet story: it delightfully pits past indiscretions against present purity of spirit. The characters are all incredibly well-developed, and create an amazing balance among themselves, moving with and against each other constantly like a Calder mobile. The wit is clever, the pain is unapologetic, the actors are beautiful, and the scene is paradise. Although at times a bit nonsensical, and often beyond me scientifically (it is literally rocket science), Aloha is quite simply a very good film.