Aloha ★★★★

File with James L. Brooks' How Do You Know as a late-period rom-com that may seem inept because it dispenses with the usual pretence of realism (the magical setting helps, like it did, in a different way, in Almost Famous; maybe Crowe's peculiar sensibility needs the licence of an anything-goes milieu to really take flight). Myths and omens appear prominently. There's an emphasis on the touchy-feely - Danny McBride as Colonel "Fingers"; Bill Murray giving an impromptu massage - over the verbal, words boiling over into poetry ("You're gonna skin your knees on eternity") then evaporating into pure feeling, one of Crowe's favourite themes being the magic of Love suddenly descending on people who talk too much (cf. "You had me at hello"). Words become explicitly superfluous, not once but twice. Music is all-important, its easy sensuality smoothing out human complications: Emma Stone and the king bond over a Hawaiian song - lovingly strummed under the moonlight - she and Murray dance to Hall and Oates though their goals (in the plot) are diametrically opposite, even General Alec Baldwin makes a request for his favourite tune ('Everybody Wants to Rule the World', natch); at the climax, the entire history of music joins forces to take down a rogue satellite. The film skims over the bits rom-coms always include in the name of structure or 'balance', heading directly to unmediated emotion, a candid openness that's very childlike ("I love him," says the little boy, out of nowhere): Stone and Cooper go straight into a screwball, flirty, 'movie' relationship without the usual feeling-out process, often we see movie indicators of emotional crescendo - successive close-ups, etc - before really knowing what's up, like storm clouds gathering. Crowe's recent films are deeply moving because they care more for human tics than convincing build-up, as if made by a flaky eccentric whom Hollywood has somehow allowed (up till now) to make movies - and yes, he probably thinks of the whole flaky movie as a metaphor for America, getting a "second chance", like our hero, after Afghanistan and all that it represents. The controversy over Emma Stone playing Hawaiian - a case of this frank, expansive, generous, heart-on-sleeve sensibility cut down by the narrow-minded strictures of identity politics - is very sad.

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