This is a curious film. Flaccid and muddled for much of the time, and way too reliant on the combined appeal of its charismatic leads, as a date movie it succeeds neither as rom-com nor dramedy and is held together by syrup and the bizarre – and frankly unbelievable – mystery surrounding the Bill Murray character. Because it is written and directed by Cameron Crowe, you know to expect a significant contribution from the soundtrack, and the music nails every moment without ever lifting the story into the realms of Crowe’s shimmering Almost Famous (2000).
Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is a military contractor – a vague occupation, for sure – who returns to Hawaii to cut a deal that will allow multi-billionaire Carson Welch (Murray) to launch a satellite into space. His military minder is Captain Ng (Emma Stone) who, for some unclear reason, thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread the minute she meets him. Brian, however, is more concerned with coming to a rapprochement with Tracy (Rachel McAdams), the ex-girlfriend whose daughter Grace (Danielle Rose Russell) might very well be Brian’s offspring – it’s a lay-down misere that she is, but we are meant to be kept on tenterhooks (not to say tender hooks) until that dramatic revelation. One of the more interesting tangents involves the indigenous Hawaiians with whom Brian must negotiate. They wear T-shirts with ‘Hawaiian Born’ on the front and ‘American by Force’ on the back and at first you think that the serious issue of native land rights might be dealt with in more than just a glancing manner. To do that, however, would have put too sharp an edge on the waffle, as Brian, Ng, Tracy and Woody, Tracy’s dull and aptly named partner, sort out their matters of the heart. Ultimately, Welch’s scheme is foiled and, Crowe being Crowe, music saves the world. I’m a bit in love with McAdams, and I know plenty of others are with Stone and Cooper, so the outing wasn’t a complete dead loss.