To begin with, Everything.
Seriously, why do we connect to Cameron Crowe?
His heroes all have some promise of unrealised greatness, they have been close to moral bankruptcy chasing careers and are on the verge of an epiphany until the Joseph Campbell-prophesied-meeting-with-the-Goddess who triggers off their transformation.
Basically, stories of men finding their God sent angels.
And where do angels come from? The skies, if you ask Crowe.
Check this out.
His heroes always seem to find the answers in the skies. Dorothy Boyd first sees Jerry Maguire on a plane, Claire Colburn meets Drew Baylor on a plane (to Elizabethtown) and now in Aloha, Brian Gilcrest meets Allison Ng, a fighter pilot. If you think about it, in his debut film Say Anything Lloyd Dobler gave Diane Court the courage to fly and even his autobiographical Almost Famous used a plane scene for the moment of epiphany. And even Vanilla… you get the idea.
We have all been there and hoped to meet these angels from the skies who would help us tide over tough times. Which is why we love Crowe.
He fills his films with so much hope and optimism set to score with great music and awesome people that you always remember them fondly and also the lessons they learnt during their epiphanies.
Almost Famous’s William Miller had it when he was 15, Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything), Steve Dunne (Singles) and Drew Baylor were 20 something, Jerry Maguire and David Aames (Vanilla Sky) were 30 something. Benjamin Mee (We Bought a Zoo) and now, Brian Gilcrest are 40 something.
Aloha, thus, is the story of a man who had a very late epiphany.
It’s almost the story of rebirth after a near death experience.
War ravaged Brian is literally broken (bones) and stitched together (his toe) before he limps his way back home to Hawaii hired to do what he’s best at. Mess up the planet with more missiles by smooth-talking locals into co-operating.
This is no celebrated war veteran. He’s… “a wreck of a guy, a sad city coyote” in the eyes of his “watchdog” (another way to say angel).
The kids in Crowe’s films are witness to this meeting with the Goddess/Angel. Here, the kid with the camera calls him Lono (the God of peace) who has come to save Pele (Goddess who represents Hawaii itself), according to the Hawaiian myth of the Arrival.
The key to understanding Aloha is understanding the myth of second-coming. Or second chances. It’s the story of man who lost his way, blinded by ambition. Or America itself. We are so busy selling out for growth that we end up broken, lost and dead. “Morally bankrupt,” as the angel observes here.
But life has its ways of giving you another chance “to turn it all around” (Vanilla Sky) if you have your “20 seconds of courage” (We Bought a Zoo) to do the right thing in a “cynical world” (Jerry Maguire).
It happened over a phone call in Elizabethtown (This phone call went on to give birth to an entire feature film I made called Good Night Good Morning). In Aloha, it happens over peppermint tea. Crowe’s heroes are ageing and growing with him too.
If he had decided to never let go of the love of his life even if she’s dead (in We Bought a Zoo), four years later, his hero (in Aloha) seems to have made his peace with the one who got away. In fact, he is able to sit across and have a mature conversation with her about what she should do next.
His heroes are evolving with time.
Two and a half decades ago, Lloyd Dobler didn’t get his heart broken. Today, Gilcrest is broken in every single way – physically and mentally. His heroes are growing older in an increasingly cynical world, scarred than ever before.
Yet, they continue to believe in angels. In sacred skies. And in the goodness within. Or as the title means: Affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. Aloha.
I can’t wait to watch Aloha now! I’ve been reading your reviews in The Hindu ever since I can remember, Sudhish. You were probably the only movie reviewer I ever read and I cannot begin to describe the happiness I felt reading your column every Friday. Now that you are moving on to bigger and better things I wish you all the luck in the world!