With Cameron Crowe’s tenth directorial feature coming to theatres this weekend, the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not Aloha will be any good, or will prove to be simply more romantic drivel from an American filmmaker who has seemingly ceased to make anything worthwhile in the past fifteen years. Not since his semi-autobiographical coming of age dramedy Almost Famous, which was released in 2000, has Crowe produced anything that has been greeted by the mainstream movie going audience with as much fanfare and critical acclaim as his early features enjoyed. Seemingly, there are no moviegoers left who would count themselves among Crowe’s disciples, the once-loved, former Rolling Stone music journalist a misfit of the Hollywood system, an anomalous disseminator of big budget motion pictures.
Undoubtedly, Crowe has encountered some unequivocal stumbling blocks as a creative talent in Hollywood over the course of his career. Inarguably, Vanilla Sky and Elizabethtown, released in 2001 and 2005 respectively, stand as his two worst moments as a screenwriter. In both films, Crowe strove for some sort of grand statement within the romantic comedy genre, which he has become so well known for producing. Unfortunately, each film suffers from the self-righteous pomposity of a self-defined merit that denies viewers access into their respective worlds; Vanilla Sky is an opaque meditation on vanity made ridiculous in Tom Cruise’s misguided performance, and Elizabethtown gave rise to the oft-regarded source of the “manic-pixie-dream-girl,” an insouciantly misogynistic fantasy.
Tragically, the same director who once gave audiences 1989’s seminal-classic drama Say Anything, itself one of the most tenderly remembered and articulated modern romances, has since become something of a joke, requiring a defense to be mounted by anyone bold enough to declare even a passing affection for 1992’s Singles, or heaven forbid, 2011’s We Bought a Zoo. While the jury is still out on Aloha, some of the staff here at Audiences Everywhere believes Crowe’s new film holds no objective promise outside of the director’s subjectively held good intentions. For all intents and purposes, Aloha is being anticipated with great reservation and extreme prejudice, the admittedly trite and methodical emotional manipulation most bluntly on display in 1996’s Jerry Maguire a trial which no one here would wish to revisit.
But there’s still something about Cameron Crowe as a director of the sort of feel-good comedies, perhaps better suited to the cultural climate of the 1990’s, that’s hard to shake. As a fan of the director, I, for one, am reticent to summarily dismiss a director whose individual contributions to a shared cinematic fantasy have proven to be comprehensively durable and subjectively up-lifting. While We Bought a Zoo is certainly not a revelatory picture, the optimism and hope that it promises is a breath of fresh air amid such loud, obnoxious spectacles as those feature films that comprise the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sometimes, its necessary to take a step back and appreciate the smaller things in life as they are projected and superimposed on the big screen, the fantasies imagined within the romantic comedy as written by the likes of Cameron Crowe just as valuable and self-sustaining as the juvenile flights of fancy enacted by grown men in tights that are currently being entertained more unilaterally in our shared contemporary popular culture than ever before.
Without devolving into the sort of regressive rhetoric most recently lampooned in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman, it is nevertheless important to make the case for anticipating Crowe’s forthcoming Aloha with objective anticipation. After all, what makes my own self-proclaimed love and effervescent enthusiasm for everything Cameron Crowe any different from our own staff’s zealotry for Avengers: Age of Ultron a mere four weeks ago, or the entire world’s seemingly premature fanaticism over Mad Max: Fury Road only two weeks ago? Aloha may be as slight and pedantic as currently anticipated, but where’s the harm in still wanting to see it anyway and most likely loving it regardless of its objective faults? Age of Ultron is certainly not without its short comings, and yet it still stands as one of the most seen films of the year so far, with Mad Max: Fury Road hot on its tail, both films enjoyed at the level of adolescent fantasy and unbridled enthusiasm more appropriate to the very same sort of youthful optimism more widely disregarded in the films of Cameron Crowe.
In Almost Famous, Patrick Fugit plays a precocious young teen who scores the opportunity of a lifetime when he is hired by Rolling Stone magazine to go on tour with his favorite band, an experience that results in a loss of innocence and a coming of age story that’s greater than anything his subjective reportage could ever exhaustively detail. Likewise, its impossible for me to encapsulate everything that the films of Cameron Crowe have meant to me personally over the years, save to say that I still watch films like Almost Famous at least once a year, and think about them far more often than I wish to revisit any aspect of the MCU. Its unlikely that Aloha will be as fondly remembered as some of the other big budget blockbusters still to come this summer movie season, but for my money, I’m willing to bet that Crowe’s tenth directorial feature film will be more memorable when I think back on the year in film in 2015 than some of the other more popular franchises and independent properties, even if Mad Max: Fury Road proves to be more historically relevant.
Aloha, which you can see in theatres this weekend, stars Bradley Cooper as a once celebrated military contractor who, in a turn of fortuitous events, winds up back home in Hawaii, where he is forced to confront old friends and lost loves in what is sure to be the must-see romantic comedy of the summer season, regardless of whether it becomes a critical darling or not. Cameron Crowe may no longer be capable of delivering a film as heart-felt and uncompromising as Almost Famous, but in the brief glimpses that have been offered so far in the trailers for Aloha, some of the same effervescent magic that has become a staple of Crowe’s oeuvre still abounds. Hopeful whimsy is the trump card being played yet again by Crowe, pulled from a deck of cards that has since lost some of its luster, but none of its flair. The romantic comedy is a game that Crowe has never forgotten how to play, no matter how tired the rules have become in the interceding years since Lloyd Dobler first held his boom-box up high.