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Bradley Cooper searches for redemption in moving 'Aloha'
Bradley Cooper stars in "Aloha," also starring Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams. - photo by Josh Terry
ALOHA 3 1/2 stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Dennis Bumpy Kanahele, Bill Murray; PG-13 (some language including suggestive comments); in general release

Life is a mess. Aloha is a moving film about a man who is trying to decide whether to clean his life up.

The man is Brian Gilcrest, played by Bradley Cooper. In his younger days, Brian was an idealist, a military software analyst with his eyes fixed on the stars, and more specifically, the U.S. space program.

But we meet Brian a few years down the line after some moral compromises and economic downturns have pulled the rug from under his noble aspirations. When the field of space exploration went private, Brian followed suit. And as the film opens, he works for an eccentric billionaire named Carson Welch (Bill Murray).

Welch has sent Brian to Hawaii to manage the delicate relationship between his company, the military and Hawaiis native leadership. Welch needs everyone on board to enable the launch of a new satellite.

But that isnt the only relationship Brian has to manage. Our man has a past with Hawaii. His ex-girlfriend, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), lives there with her husband, Woody (John Krasinski), and their two children. Brian and Tracy have unfinished business, and since Woody is an Air Force pilot, their worlds are inextricably tied.

Things are complicated further by Capt. Allison Ng (Emma Stone), an aggressive go-getter assigned to be Brians Air Force liaison/watchdog. When Brian takes her to a negotiation session with the native leadership, everything from politics to idealism to budding romance gets pushed onto his psychological table, and Brian has to decide whether to stay on his current path or try to reclaim the honorable man he once was.

Its a lot of ingredients for one stew, but Aloha works for a few reasons: The writing is excellent, the cast does a fantastic job, and the mess of a plot seems fitting considering the mess Brian has made out of his life.

Aloha is a movie about redemption, and its the perfect kind of character piece for a director like Cameron Crowe. He's the man behind Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, films that have a habit of focusing on flawed male leads who are trying to make sense out of love and life.

Cooper is perfect as Brian, and he does a good job shouldering a story that is anything but focused. His scenes with Krasinski are especially fun. The rest of the cast keeps the acting quality at a high level, and a dance sequence between Stone and Murray is another huge highlight.

Crowes fans will be happy to know that the director has stayed true to form, once again turning his roots as a Rolling Stone writer into a memorable and insightful soundtrack that marries classic rock tunes with Hawaiian-flavored pieces.

The setting and theme may keep Aloha from the iconic level of some of Crowes other films, but the film has a lot to offer. It works better in individual moments than it does as a three-act structure, but like life, Aloha makes a lot more sense looking back once youve come out the other side.

Aloha is rated PG-13 for some language including suggestive comments; running time: 104 minutes.
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