Cameron Crowe took to The Uncool, his website, this morning to offer both an apology and an explanation in regards to his casting of Emma Stone as Allison Ng in his new film, Aloha. In the short letter to fans and critics, Crowe attempted to explain the reasoning behind casting Stone as a character that is a quarter Asian and another quarter native Hawaiian, saying that the character’s very white appearance was meant to be a point of frustration for Stone’s character; in fact, he said that Ng was based on a red-haired Hawaiian woman who suffered a similar annoyance. He also commented that Aloha has felt like a “misunderstood movie” since it was mentioned amongst the deluge of embarrassments in Amy Pascal‘s e-mails that were leaked last year during the Sony hack
I’m inclined to take Crowe at his word when he explains his intentions in casting Stone, and when he says that he understands that audience are “hungry for stories with more racial diversity.” His intentions for the character clearly didn’t translate on screen, due more to Crowe’s messy screenplay than any part of Stone’s performance, but it’s worth noting that this slip-up isn’t even remotely the top reason why Aloha felt so deeply false. Crowe’s sense of nostalgia has always been a primary drawing point for audiences, but it’s only been paid off when he goes the extra mile to illustrate the detriments of obsessing and fetishizing the past in lieu of looking forward. The feeling I had leaving the theater I saw Aloha in was that of bored complacency and self-satisfied optimism, and the film is ultimately most troubling in the fantastical heroics and empty, uncomplicated romanticism that dominate the narrative, and on which much of the drama hinges on. It’s the filmic equivalent of hearing “Three Little Birds” on loop for 24 hours straight, with the Ng fiasco only serving as a worthy footnote.