Writer/director Cameron Crowe has issued an apology for the casting of Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a one-quarter Hawaiian character in his latest film Aloha. The reason I call this “something like an apology” in my headline is because it seems to come with a few caveats such as how it goes out to those “who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice”. Here’s what Crowe had to say on his personal website:
Crowe’s explanation for the casting is no surprise and to say it’s based on a “real-life” person he met is fine. Problem is, movies aren’t real life. The audience isn’t on your journey of exploration, Crowe happened upon this person in a natural way, audiences watching Aloha were introduced to her as a reality, not a coincidence. Here’s how I wrote about Stone as Allison in my review and the way the film approaches the idea this film is “about Hawaii” as Crowe is still alleging:
When it comes to the “about Hawaii” aspect, Crowe, like Sony, is using the email hack as an excuse to defend the film. Sony issued a statement last month when the race controversy was seemingly coming to a head saying, “While some have been quick to judge a movie they haven’t seen and a script they haven’t read, the film Aloha respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people. Filmmaker Cameron Crowe spent years researching this project and many months on location in Hawaii, cultivating relationships with leading local voices. He earned the trust of many Hawaiian community leaders, including Dennis ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele, who plays a key role in the film.”
Crowe’s sentiments read very much the same:
I’ll agree the first half of the film feels like it’s paying some measure of respect toward Hawaii and its traditions and culture, but the second half throws pretty much all that out the window. Using the “Sony Hack” as an excuse is just that, an excuse, and the fact Crowe opens his apology with the above paragraph suggests he’s not really apologizing, but still sticking to the idea this is merely a misunderstood movie.
He speaks to presenting Hawaiian locals with “many jobs for over four months” and of Stone’s research into the character, which is to say it all sounds defensive and very passive aggressive. To paraphrase it sounds more like: “I’m sorry we brought these jobs to Hawaii for four months and that you were offended by Emma Stone’s great performance. I’m sorry you just don’t get this misunderstood movie, but I’m grateful for the conversation.”
The thing, for me, is not about misunderstanding the movie or necessarily being offended by Emma Stone portraying Allison Ng, but the fact the character felt false. Stone’s performance is good, as were the performances from Rachel McAdams and Bradley Cooper. But the character felt false and like I said in my review, that falseness was felt throughout the movie.
Was conversation with this real-life person Crowe met a constant reminder of how she was one-quarter Hawaiian? Is she constantly reminding us about her knowledge of Hawaiian culture? Did she dye her red hair blonde and fall in love with the white defense contractor? Was she an Air Force pilot? Because this is the Allison Ng audiences met, not the real-life red head Cameron Crowe is referring to.
Movies are where real life ends and fictional worlds begin, it’s why I so infrequently get offended by films (and TV shows) but more just disappointed and frustrated when filmmakers mess up what could have been a good thing and Aloha has a lot of good in it… It also has a lot of bad.