29 July, 2015

I liked 'Aloha'

I saw 'Aloha' last night. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have gone to see it as the trailer put me off due to the military overlay (which rarely excites me); however, it was being offered as a double-feature with another film ('Far from the Madding Crowd') so I thought, "Why not?"

When 'Far from the Madding Crowd' was over, I wasn't too keen to stick around as I wasn't inspired by the thought of 'Aloha'. I had heard nothing at all about the movie but the trailer gave enough away to make it seem sappy. It turns out that I was pleasantly surprised. At the end of 'Aloha', everyone in the cinema seemed confused and comments of that kind circulated around the room. It was depressing to realise that I was, seemingly, the only person who understood the film. People had missed whole chunks of the subject matter and characterisation somehow. But for me, that was the beauty of the film--you're forced to stay active in it. You really have to pay attention because the pace is fast in the first 8 minutes. As the plot unfolds, you make sense of it as you go. The movie is like a journey--I found myself being able to identify with each of the characters in some way. It's not dissimilar to 'Jerry Maguire', except that Bradley Cooper is a more likeable protagonist.

'Aloha' is definitely more figurative than literal in nature. Like most films, you can't pick apart every mistake, you just have to feel it. The film is multi-layered and moved me a lot without me really expecting it (as Crowe films tend to do). It set out to achieve too much but that worked for me for the following reasons:

1)  It resonates with similarities in Australia in regards to people's treatment of the indigenous population. The movie took me through a whole range of emotions, including disgust at what Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) was there to do: abuse the trust he had somehow previously gained from the indigenous community. I think a lot of North American's don't like the film because it makes a statement about land rights and past maltreatment of Hawaii's indigenous people. It could be considered anti-nationalist by some. To me, the film depicts the present-day reality of a people who were overturned in much the same way as indigenous Australians were. It serves as a reminder that land, culture and language were unrightfully taken away. Efforts must be made to preserve and respect Hawaii's rich heritage.

2)  Similarly, I like the Hawaiian mythology that is woven into the film despite it being rather clumsy and tokenistic at times. I was reminded that the indigenous people's connection with the sky and the land is of cultural and spiritual importance. Although technological development is a reality, and we all benefit from it in our daily lives, the film touches upon the conflict between advancement and heritage. It also hints at the ruthlessness of American militarism as it expands its global strongholds in the Pacific at all costs. I like to hope that the lack of military intelligence in regards to Carson Welch's (Bill Murray) true motives was a far-fetched plot line. It is a truly scary thought that ordinary citizens of incredible wealth may be able to wield military power. It's scary enough when the US government does it.

3)  It depicts a broken person, both mentally and physically, in Cooper's character--a consequence of his egotistical jaunts. It is pretty clear from the outset that he has become disconnected from himself somewhere along the way. He was so selfish in his past relationship with Tracy (Rachel McAdams), always putting his career first, until he is forced to 'face the music' both personally and professionally throughout the film. It portrays his gradual transformation and growth, presumably originating from the serious injuries he sustained in Afghanistan, and culminating in his decision to cause Welch's satellite to explode. The film puts Gilcrest in the driver's seat of his own redemption. It's story of hope to anyone who finds themselves at the bottom of the heap. One may never rise again to the heights of former glories but, somehow, that doesn't matter anymore when things are put into perspective.

4)  Bill Murray's character is repugnant and representative of North America's filthy rich individuals whose greed has no bounds. He played the character beautifully, capturing the eccentricity and narcissism that some billionaires possess. He is charged with the delivery of one of the most poignant lines in the film: "The future isn’t just something that happens. It’s a brutal force, with a great sense of humour, that will steamroll you if you’re not watching." This is so true--life creeps up on you so fast--and it can be ridiculously overwhelming. In the context of Welch's character, he deals with this by 'getting in first' and 'staying one step ahead of the game'. This is how most people think life should be approached but there are other people, more unassuming, who do get steamrolled. Perhaps they are just too honest or different or gullible. But it doesn't make them lesser people.

Everyone interprets a movie differently. To me, the movie made bold statements about militarism, globalisation, selfishness, greed, self-understanding, self-identity (the 'daughter' subplot) and loyalty. These ideas came across powerfully--I didn't have to think about them. The dialogue, acting and cinematography are very raw; you're right there amongst it and there's no escape. In this way, I think that 'Aloha' is quite a confrontational film because it really makes you question your own existence, your affect on individuals and groups. We all play a part in this world however insignificant it seems at times. We have a choice each day in the way we interact with those we love as well as with the wider community.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting take on it. I didn't get that out of it. I went into it expecting a rom-com. I don't think it had anything much to say.