A Love Letter to Cameron Crowe's Failed 'Aloha'
The scene I most appreciate in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire is the opening sequence that set the movie into motion. Tom Cruise’ Maguire has a middle-of-the-night epiphany, and he began writing what he called a mission statement, “The Things We Think and Do Not Say.” “Fewer clients, less money,” he wrote. He was writing something “touchy-feely,” because he’d “lost the ability to bullshit.”
It was one of those big, middle-of-the-night ideas we all have, and that we’re all too afraid to say out loud, or we wait until the morning when those big, romantic ideas evaporate in the morning sun. It was a dare-to-be great moment for Jerry Maguire, and it cost him his job because people in the real world don’t want to hear the “touchy feely,” and they certainly don’t want to hear about notions of “less money.”
Cameron Crowe’s Aloha feels like one of those middle-of-the-night ideas that sounds amazing at 3 a.m., after a bottle of wine when you’re feeling romantic and invincible: It was going to be this big love story about fighting war with sound, about Hawaiian myths, and defeating cynicism with love. There is greatness in the idea of this movie, yet in the cold light of the day, it comes out like the drunken, incoherent ramblings of a guy with a huge heart, a big idea, and no one to edit him.
Aloha is a disaster. It really is. It completely falls on its ass. Cameron Crowe trying to jam a huge love story into a framework involving nuclear bombs, the co-opting of the military by billionaire private citizens, and turf wars in Hawaii and space is like Michael Jordan dunking a basketball in the middle of a baseball diamond. You can see the soaring greatness, but it’s in the wrong context. It’s Crowe’s most ambitious film to date, and it’s also his least successful. By far. In fact, if you’re not an unabashed Cameron Crowe fan, a member of the Uncool, you absolutely should not see this movie, no matter how much you might like Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Brad Cooper, and Emma Stone.
It’s a trainwreck.
But I don’t care. I loved it. I really did. Because it is a beautiful disaster, and within the incoherent mess, there are lovely moments, touches of grace, these huge romantic Cameron Crowe ideas. Of course, Cameron Crowe would end a nuclear arms race with snippets of Dylan. Of course, he’d try to incorporate Hawaii into a love story the same way Steve Martin incorporated Los Angeles into L.A. Story, as a kind of supernatural force that brings two people together. Can you imagine how great those ideas sounded in his head in the middle of the night?
Underneath all half-formed debris, there are love stories about two emotionally unavailable men (Cooper and Krasinski) who find a way to express themselves with heartfelt letters and speeches that those characters probably dreamed up in the middle of the night while they were tipsy, and the next morning, they found the 20 seconds of insane courage to say those words out loud, even if it meant falling on their asses.
That’s Cameron Crowe to a T. He’s a guy that will say those things, and while those words may dry up in the cynicism of our culture, occasionally they just might work.
There are three adorable, amazing, chaotic children screaming at me for breakfast at 5:45 a.m., while I’m trying to write this review because of Cameron Crowe. Because I learned from Cameron Crowe to say the things you are feeling, no matter how cheesy or too-soon it might be. Because on the night I met my wife, I told her not to wait to call me. To call me the next morning. Because I was foolish and in love enough to move in with her two months later. Because I sneaked an engagement ring through customs to propose to her in Paris, because what could be more romantically cliche?
I could’ve fallen on my ass. I could still be proofing galleys on some barstool in Boston right now. But it worked, because Cameron Crowe movies taught me to seize those moments, express those feelings, and dare to make an ass of myself.
Sometimes, daring to make an ass of yourself turns into a disaster like Aloha — or maybe this review — but sometimes all those late-night achy-hearted musings, those kernels of romantic truths, and those big-hearted poems all congeal together perfectly into a story about a class valedictorian falling in love with an aspiring kickboxer, or a brilliant woman who grew up without electricity and aspired to change the world falling in love with a dopey mess from Arkansas.
Unless you put yourself out there, you’ll never know.
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