When this 2015 movie was playing in cinemas here, there was a lot of unfavourable reviews so I gave it a miss. Now that I found it on the library shelf, I decided to find out how bad it really is.
The story seems quite straightforward – a celebrated military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) returns to Hawaii and is assigned to watchdog Allison Ng (Emma Stone). He readily reconnects with an ex-girlfriend Tracy Carson (Rachel McAdams).
13 years ago, Tracy broke up with Brian because he didn’t show up for a vacation. Already pregnant, she then married John ‘Woody’ Woodside ( John Krasinski). She now has two children : 12-year-old Grace (Danielle Rose Russell, who is a marvellous actress) and 10-year-old Mitchell.
Brian falls in love with Tracy; they get into a tiff; he realises that Grace is his daughter; and Woody nearly leaves the family. But all is well in the end.
I was not surprised to find myself nodding off through parts of the movie that are slow-moving and deal with complicated subjects like iriduim flares, sound transducing and aerodynamic flights. I am also not surprised that there was so much criticism about Emma Stone’s character: Allison Ng is supposed to be half-Chinese and half-Hawaiian, with Swedish ancestry. This is ridiculous: Emma Stone does not even look 1% Chinese! Most of the characters in the movie cannot pronounce Ng correctly, making it sound more like Eng. I wonder why Hollywood would bother to choose such a name for the character.
The weaving in of Hawaiian myths, such as the Hawaiian Blessing Ceremony, into the story could have been made more interesting. As it is, the discussion on mana (spirits), menehune (gentle mist), kupuna and ohana border on boring. The saving grace is the hula dances, local musicians and authentic Hawaiian music (of which there are plenty: more than 40, including the well-known Aloha Oe by Queen Liliuokalani).
The cinematography is good, but having visited Hawaii twice (and staying not just for a few days), I wasn’t that impressed. The stunts and visual effects/animation are not impressive either.
The only impressive thing about this movie is that despite it being nowhere near a musical, there is so much music : besides traditional Hawaiian songs, there are more than a dozen popular songs – including I Can See For Miles by Pete Townshend, Factory Girls by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, When I Grow Too Old To Dream by Oscar Hammerstein, Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan and theme songs from Disney movies and I Love Lucy.