Year 8, Day 80 - 3/20/16 - Movie #2,281
BEFORE: Wrapping up a 4-night Bill Murray chain, and I'm hoping he's in this one for real, not in stock footage, not hidden inside a hazmat suit - maybe tonight he'll have a real role with dialogue and everything.
IMDB categorizes this one under "Comedy / Drama / Romance", and that's a bad sign, because it can't really be all of those things, can it? It came into my possession too late to make the February romance chain, or at least too late to be linked to as part of it, so I'm sort of cheating by putting it here, but we'll see. I don't feel like saving it for next February, because there's still a chance I could be done with the whole project by then.
THE PLOT: A celebrated military contractor returns to the site of his greatest
career triumphs and reconnects with a long-ago love while unexpectedly
falling for the hard-charging Air Force watch-dog assigned to him.
AFTER: OK, I feel justified in placing this film exactly here in the line-up. First off, it's a film set in Hawaii and it just happens to be PALM Sunday. That's gotta be a sign. Secondly, there's that kid again, the one who was so precocious in "St. Vincent" - in another Bill Murray film, that's quite a coincidence. Maybe somebody just thought they worked well together and cast them both again. Finally, this film shares a major plot point with "Dumb and Dumber To", but I'm not going to reveal what exactly that is. Let's just say it's another one of a few thousand unlikely coincidences, even if the same subject is handled much more intelligently in this film.
Everybody was buzzing about this film last year, and not in a good way, when they realized that Emma Stone had been cast as a character that was supposed to be half-Asian (1/4 Hawaiian, 1/4 Chinese) and she looks about zero percent Asian. Not only does that sort of thing take away a role from an Asian (or half-Asian) actress, it also creates a disconnect between what we see and what we're told. Then again, I can see the other side of things, since casting Emma Stone might sell tickets, where there might not be an Asian actress with the same name recognition. Still, if the character is half-Asian and the actress is not, why not just change the character's background so things match up again?
The other major disconnect here is the subject matter - calling this a "romance" really sells it short, because it's about so many other things. I remember a quote from Penn Jillette about the Rolling Stones, if you look at where they've made their money as a band, partially from album sales, partially from royalties, partially from touring, and mostly from selling t-shirts with their logo on it - so there's a chance that history will regard the Rolling Stones as t-shirt salesmen. By the same token, the romance storyline is only part of what's going on here, the main story seems to be about military bases on Hawaii, and the privatization of space travel.
The lead character is a former astronaut, but one who seems to have missed his chance to work for NASA, so now he's a military contractor who's been doing some shady work in Afghanistan for the last few years. He returns to Hawaii, where apparently he worked many years before, to assist in a satellite launch, but also to negotiate a deal for some more land from the native Hawaiians. This puts him in contact with his old girlfriend, who's now married to a pilot, and a female pilot under his command, who he develops an attraction to while they work together. Classic love rectangle, right?
But even that sort of sells things a bit short. I feel like there's a lot going on under the surface, and not just in the scenes where two men prove they can have whole conversations without saying a word. (Don't worry, subtitles are provided for the female audience members.) The whole film just feels kind of fuzzy and ill-defined. Maybe this is intentional, that they wanted to leave parts of this guy's military career a mystery (lots of missions, lots of "stuff" that went down in the Middle East) but that also makes the movie feel sort of half-written.
NITPICK POINT: The part with the satellite, I'm no expert on these things, that's for sure - but I don't know if what's depicted here is even scientifically possible. I'm willing to bet that the writer didn't do much actual research - I'm going to check this out and I hope I'm wrong, but it sort of feels like a narrative cheat, or perhaps an attempt to piggy-back on the success of "Gravity".
Also starring Bradley Cooper (last seen in "American Sniper"), Emma Stone (last seen in "Zombieland"), Rachel McAdams (last seen in "About Time"), John Krasinski (last seen in "The Holiday"), Alec Baldwin (last seen in "She's Having a Baby"), Danny McBride (last seen in "This Is the End"), Bill Camp (last seen in "12 Years a Slave"), Jaeden Lieberher (last seen in "St. Vincent"), Danielle Rose Russell, Michael Chernus, Elizabeth Marvel.
RATING: 5 out of 10 hula dances