Reviewing Aloha, Based on the Soundtrack to Aloha


Aloha, written and directed by Cameron Crowe, opened today to dismal reviews. Despite its all-star cast, everyone agrees that it’s terrible— maybe even Crowe’s worst movie ever. (And he made Elizabethtown!)

I will never see Aloha, but because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, I listened to its soundtrack, entitled Songs of Aloha, and reviewed what I imagine happens in the film based on the trailer and each track. Action!

Track 1: Alfred Alohikea, “Hanohano Hanalei”

Oh yeah, this is definitely the beginning of the Aloha soundtrack. Very mid century. Ukulele-forward. Hawaiian sung in a falsetto. This is clearly credits music. We see beautiful images of Hawaiian landscapes intercut with shots of Bradley Cooper (I think he plays an Air Force pilot ) flying a plane and smiling when landing it near a volcano. As he walks offscreen, lava surrounds the plane and begins to destroy it. It’s a funny gag!

Track 2: Bobby Ingano, “Tropical Swing”

Hand me a mai tai because here comes the slide guitar. This song probably plays as B. Coop walks down some Hawaiian street, lowering his sunglasses and saying, “Aloha,” to all the pretty Hawaiian women he passes. Yep, this guy loves the ladies.

Track 3: Genoa Keawe, “Alika”

This is playing in a restaurant as Bradley sees Rachel McAdams for the first time in years. They used to date… or maybe they were married. No, no—they dated. And now he’s back after being stationed in Hawaii and she’s shocked to see him after all this time. He didn’t think he would still have feelings for her, but there’s something in his eyes that screams, “I miss this woman.” We see Bill Murray for a moment at the bar, but he slips away. Who is he, we wonder…

Track 4: The Royal Hawaiian Serenaders, “I’ll Weave a Lei of Stars for You”

Another old Hawaiian song. This one is harmony-heavy—sort of a Hawaiian barbershop quartet—and I’m feeling it. “When you wear my lei of stars, the fairest one is you.” Aw, that’s sweet. So Rachel and Bradley go back to her house together and he puts this on—maybe it was the first song they ever danced to. Is their romance rekindling? Maybe. OK, probably.

Track 5: Ledward Kaapana, “Slack Key Lullabye”

This slow, simple instrumental piece sort of gives me the feeling that it’s an introduction to Emma Stone’s character. She’s also an Air Force pilot, and we see her flying around the islands looking blissful. There are photographs of her friends and family taped to controls in the cockpit. Emma’s a nice person, you can tell by her smile. She lands her plane next to the same volcano, and as she walks away the lava starts surrounding it. (Sort of a running gag!)

Track 6: Cyril Pahinui, “Ipo Lei Manu”

This is a nice little acoustic Hawaiian song. Peaceful. I think it’s playing as Emma Stone walks to the Air Force base where she’s just been assigned. It’s the same one where Bradley Cooper works! Maybe this scene is in slow motion. She’s walking through a sea of military dudes and they react to her in slow motion like, “WHaaaaAAAAaaaA? A lady pilot?!?!” It’s a clever scene. I think she meets Bradley Cooper somewhere around here. He didn’t expect to be working with such a sexy pilot and now this whole rekindling the old romance thing might get a little complicated! Uh oh!

Track 7: David Crosby, “Kids & Dogs”

And we’re back to Rachel. We only hear a few seconds of this very chill David Crosby song (this whole soundtrack is almost too chill) as we see Rachel McAdams go to work. Once there, she talks to her coworkers about how Bradley is back and they canNOT believe what they’re hearing. They tell her not to trust him. She’s uncertain. The scene ends with one of the coworkers answering her phone and being like, “Whaddaya mean another plane was destroyed by lava?” It’s unclear what their jobs are.

Track 8: Fleetwood Mac, “I Know I’m Not Wrong”

This great track from Tusk is the perfect accompaniment to this FLYING MONTAGE!!!! Emma and Bradley go up in the air tomorrow and Emma shows Bradley how it’s done. Looks like she can fly as well as he can—maybe even better! He makes fun of all the photos and little trinkets in her cockpit, but she says they always “keep her grounded.” He likes that. The audience wonders why her plane still exists after burning up in an earlier scene, but chooses to accept that Hawaii is a mysterious place where you must say “aloha” to plausibility.

Track 9: Hall and Oates, “I Can’t Go for That”

Uh oh, are Bradley and Emma on a date? They start dancing at a restaurant when this song comes on, and Bradley impresses Emma with his moves. Emma isn’t a great dancer, but she’s charming nonetheless. While they’re dancing, we pull back to see Bill Murray watching them from the bar. He’s back! But who is he? Why is he staring disapprovingly? Hmmmmmmmm this movie is getting interesting.

Bill surprises Bradley in the bathroom and Bradley is like, “WHAT THE HELL!? DAD?!?!?” Whoaaaa! Father and son! Bill is mad at Bradley for not telling him he’d returned to Hawaii, and also that he should stop fooling around with Emma Stone. “Don’t you miss Rachel?” he asks. “Rachel was good for you. This woman… she’s too young. You were gonna marry Rachel, but you gave up. You were gonna be an astronaut, but you gave up. Don’t ruin a third life, son.” Whoa, Bill. This is getting real. Bradley storms out of the bathroom after telling him to stay out of his life for good.

Track 10: Kurt Vile, “Take My Advice”

This dreamy little song plays as Bradley abruptly leaves dinner and walks home from the restaurant alone. He considers his options while looking up at the stars and we see a flashback of the time when he and Rachel were first dating. They’re lying on the beach at night looking up at the sky. He talks about the stars and his plans for becoming an astronaut. It’s the moment they fell in love. Bradley just had a revelation. He picks up his phone and tells someone to meet him at his house. Immediately.

Track 11: The Tallest Man On Earth, “A Field of Birds”

“A Field of Birds” is perfect indie-folk, driving with the top down music, so we see Bradley driving happily to some destination at night. When he arrives at his house, we see that both Emma and Rachel are there. It looks like he called both of ‘em. Whoa, fake out! Bradley sits down and tells them he’s in love with them both, and that he wants them to make a life as three lovers. Surprisingly, they’re both into it. This movie is so weird!

Track 12: Jonsi & Alex, “Midnight Mix”

Can you think of better music for a dreamy sex scene between Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams? I can’t. I also can’t believe made it through the MPAA with only a PG-13 rating! In my mind, that was pretty explicit!

Track 13: Vancouver Sleep Clinic, “Vapour”

Here’s more dreamy music, but with Bon Iver-esque vocals happening. I’m gonna assume this is playing over another montage. They’re building their life together as three. Moving into a new house on the beach. Painting the walls. Laughing. Sipping mai tais. What’s that? The three of them are slapping a SOLD sticker on the for sale sign of an abandoned local business? Whoa, did it just transition into a completed restaurant called Manger a Trois (or whatever the proper French is). Clever pun, you guys! Are they even Air Force pilots anymore? Who knows. Aloha!

Track 14: Evening Hymns, “You and Jake”

Oh my, all this music sounds the same. I think this track plays after Bradley announces to Bill Murray that Rachel and Emma are both pregnant when they have him over for dinner. Bill is disappointed and says he never wants to speak to any of them again. Domestic drama!

Track 15: Josh Ritter, “Come and Find Me”

On this song that sounds just like all the other songs, only slightly more uptempo, this is obviously played during Alec Baldwin’s scene. Bradley returns to the Air Force base where Alec is a general (?) and asks to borrow a plane so he can do some thinking up in the air. Alec tells him to get the hell out of his office, so Bradley sneaks through the base until finding an old buddy who gives him access to the planes. He goes for one final ride and a glimmer of some kind of realization appears on his face. He lands next to the volcano again.

Track 16: Radical Face, “Always Gold”

As the airplane gets engulfed by flames in the background (hahaha, what a gag), Bradley’s phone rings. It’s the hospital. Both of his partners are giving birth! Alec Baldwin yells at him for stealing/destroying a plane, but decides to drive him to the hospital after hearing the news. Maybe he’s not such a hardass after all!

Track 17: The Blue Nile, “Let’s Go Out Tonight”

After Bradley meets both healthy babies, Bill Murray surprises the trio (and their new duo) by showing up at the hospital with balloons. He apologizes to them and gives some kind of speech about how he wanted to make sure his only child grew up happy—and now it’s clear that he has. “You have two special women who love you. I never even had one.” It’s a sweet moment, but also very sad and strange. Even Alec Baldwin tears up in the corner as he sees the six of them together. I guess they’re finally one big happy Hawaiian restaurant-owning family!

Track 18: Beck, “Heart is a Drum”

How nice, a song from 2013’s Album of the Year! This Beck track plays after Bradley tells the room that he has an announcement to make, and that they should all follow him to the volcano for a surprise. Bradley, Rachel, Emma, and the two babies take one car, while Bill and Alec drive on their own. Bill wants the top down. Alec wants it up. They fight. We all laugh. Famous old dudes interacting!

Track 19: Jonsi & Alex, “Shooting Stars”

After they arrive at the volcano, Bradley climbs to the top, stands on its edge as the lava churns below him, and gives his final monologue. Something about how he’s not good enough to deserve Rachel and Emma and the babies. So he announces that he will jump into the volcano and let them live the rest of their lives without him, as he would likely interfere with their happiness. “I’ve made peace with it. I’m ready to quit floating above all my problems and return to the Earth,” he says. They nod understandingly and begin to cry. He waves, says, “Aloha,” and jumps into the volcano. Emma, Rachel, Bill, and Alec smile through their tears, Jonsi’s voice soars, and the credits roll. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY CAMERON CROWE.

Wow. What a movie.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Image via Sony.

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