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Sorry Hawaii, Thank You Brooklyn

There’s talk about Cameron Crowe’ film Aloha, claiming some people of Hawaii had their feathers ruffled by the depiction of their distinguished culture. Well, yeah. The writer-director also caused a stir by casting Emma Stone as Allison Ng, who is renowned for telling the story that she is one quarter Asian and one quarter Hawaiian. Great. Wait, what? No. Emma Stone? Crowe has openly apologized for this (only following bagfuls of offence and confusion), claiming he knew a person that mirrored this. You must have known how that might have looked, Cameron. Come on.

Let’s push that to one side. This is Cameron Crowe, of Jerry Maguire, of Almost Famous. Right there, the year 2000, as I was establishing myself as a feature film writer, I think he was my Golden God. I’ve not had one of my many screenplays produced in that time, but I would bet a month’s salary my reputation is in greater shape right now than Crowe’s. Sorry dude, I used to love you. This is Cameron Crowe, of Elizabethfuckingtown, of We Bought A Fucking Zoo.
Aloha then, what a cast – Stone, Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Bill Murray. Maybe fifteen years ago they were queuing all night to get in a Crowe movie. But these days, and while actually watching this movie, I was just wondering if these popular, talented, current crop were actually broke. Does Crowe still have some magnetic force? Nonetheless, Aloha is a real messy affair, and this goes in terms of, well, you pick. The drifting, ineffective story strands are edited together in a cumbersome fashion, there’s little chemistry between anyone, the whole thing is just bewilderingly stale. It’s a real what-the-fuck movie.
Amazingly, somehow, Crowe maintains the tiniest shred of respect with the final scene of the movie, as Gilcrest (Cooper) watches Grace in the middle of hula class make the realization he’s her father. Although the finale may appear a little implausible or out of place, it is those very factors that make it work here. A beautiful scene that stands alone from what is a very troubled movie, Danielle Rose Russell, who plays Grace, steals the picture right there. And for me it is unashamedly one of the most poignant moments in cinema of 2015 – such a shame it was in undoubtedly one of the year’s worst movies.
Earlier that night then, the wife and I were witness to a film that had poignancy, beauty, clarity in abundance. Brooklyn is inch by inch coated in so much of what we want to be washed up in by cinema. It captures the very best of romance, of period, of life, a proper historical drama, drowning in the search for a better future and sweet home-grown sentiment. A relevant part of Irish and American history depicted through it’s struggles and optimism, a film that is as emotional as it is intelligent. The gut-churning feeling of homesickness has rarely been conveyed so realistically too. Wonderful.
Directed by John Crowley, who himself began in Ireland trying to make it as a film director, Brooklyn is a beautifully balanced motion picture experience, sweeping you off your feet at a steady, immaculate pace. Essentially a romantic drama, there is also plenty of humor, sprinkled across the picture giving off authenticity and an endearing air in it’s story-telling. Nick Hornby has more than proved himself as a proficient story-teller with his back-catalog of fiction and screenplays, here adapting Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name. I’ve not read the book, though advised to do so more than once, but Hornby’s screenplay is inch-perfect, not a single cent is wasted bringing this rich story to the audience.
The gorgeous photography is far, far better than I suspect it is getting credit for among the awards season crowd and discussions alike. It invites you to explore all within the frame, not just the characters, but the colors and shapes surrounding them, never distracting. Yves Bélanger’s cinematography also emphasizes the central character Eillis’ cautious isolation in this new world. Light is prominent here, unblindingly so, the weather is at times bright, sure, but somewhere out there so is the future. And it is impossible to ignore Michael Brook’s emotive score, a soothing accompaniment, it holds and gently squeezes your hand throughout. You feel it early and never let it go. Lovely.
Brooklyn generates that feel of the grand studio pictures back in the day, that elegance and magnetism. Its emotional power is never over-done and always relatable. A love story that places you right in that era. 1950s New York picture-postcarded wonderfully as a supporting player to a compelling romance and coming-of-age tale, Saoirse Ronan was a child actress with beaming promise, and has traveled into adulthood with an assured charm and poise, which makes her perfect for the role of Eillis. It’s a brilliant performance, honestly, completely engaging, her face fits every frame like a glove. In fact the whole sartorial grace is also a perfect match for Ronan. Her exceptional moments as Eillis’ are too many to list, but the journey from small-town Irish girl to that final moment when she claims her love and her own future is a majestic one. Bravo.



  1. Al Robinson Al Robinson December 19, 2015

    At the beginning of the year I had had Aloha as a possible Best Picture contender, given the director and cast. Then the critics saw it and poopooed all over it. I lost all interest in seeing it, but now you've got me curious about that final scene. But I suppose that final scene woulnd't make much sense without having seen all that comes before it.

    As for Brooklyn, I have an interest in seeing it since everyone is beaming about it, but I feel I need to see Carol first since the two have been compared in relation to its basic premise. I want Carol to be my first taste of New York City in the 1950s for this year. But Brooklyn is on my short-list of films to see, and therefore I must make an effort to see it at some point if possible.

  2. Paddy Mulholland Paddy Mulholland December 19, 2015

    Like what you said about the cinematography in Brooklyn! Hadn't properly appreciated it until now.

  3. Asif Khan Asif Khan December 19, 2015

    Agree with you on Brooklyn. Shattered my expectations.

  4. Robin Write Robin Write December 19, 2015

    Saoirse Ronan deserves some of the credit, she lights up the screen here.

  5. Robin Write Robin Write December 19, 2015

    I saw you were watching the new Terminator movie, so Aloha might be an improvement on that. Ha. Give it a shot if you can spare 100 minutes. Let me know what you think. As for Brooklyn, just see it as soon as you can. Classic old-fashioned film-making.

  6. Al Robinson Al Robinson December 21, 2015

    Yeah, you're right. I should try Aloha just for the sake of it. I hope I make it to Brooklyn, but I'm starting to think it might not happen. But I'm not giving up just yet.

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