Cameron Crowe

 

Dear Cameron…

“Do you ever think about giving it up?”

Twenty years ago, Billy Wilder – your idol – looked you in the eye and asked you that very question about making movies. Curiously, in that moment you said “Yes”. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe it was the self-loathing that every writer fights. Maybe it was an earnest moment of feeling that honesty was the best policy. Whatever the reason, it was the wrong answer. It was the wrong answer then, and it’s still the wrong answer…but now I feel like it may be getting asked for completely different reasons, and not by anyone as sage as Mister Wilder.

I’m writing this letter because I’ve seen ALOHA. I’ve started-and-stopped a review of the film a few times over, but ultimately gave it up because I didn’t see what purpose it would serve.

In your own words, there is a difference between a failure and a fiasco. This is not quite the latter, but it’s certainly more than the former. No dialogue from this film will be quoted, no scene will be referenced. Young girls who see this movie won’t talk to boys they meet about their belief in the sky, and young boys who see this movie won’t buy girls they like a floppy straw hat. Hell, there isn’t even a choice song at a choice moment and that’s where you live.

That’s like seeing LeBron James drive to the basket and clang off the back iron.

You might indeed “wear this like Flava Flav wears a clock”, but somehow I feel like rehashing all of these mistakes and how they fail the story and the film would serve no purpose. At the end, it would just be “one more bad review”.

What got me most about ALOHA was the way Gilcrest’s failure felt like it needed more fleshing out. We could see the state this hotshot was in, but we never got a full understanding of how he got there. This wasn’t like Jerry Maguire who opens his film firing on all cylinders only to eventually find himself rolled over in the ditch. This was a man who is a shadow of his former self, but a shadow of what? How did Gilcrest get here? For that matter, how you got here. Is Gilcrest’s self-doubt a reflection of your own? Have you been getting lost in your own stories? Have you been listening to too many outside opinions…or not enough?

How did you start your career with such momentum, and then suddenly start wandering in the weeds for so long? While I consider myself an admirer of VANILLA SKY, ELIZABETHTOWN, PJ20, and WE BOUGHT A ZOO, I can’t help but notice that discussions I get into about those works usually involve me saying “yeah, but…”. Have you changed your process, leading to these more checkered results? Is the part of your brain that began as a critic now being silenced – or worse, is it clouding your conviction? Hell, is all of it just something that comes with getting older?

You have written things that I would give my left nut to have written. Lines…scenes…story beats that take on a life of their own. Sometimes it was something that was carefully crafted in draft after draft, or the recognition of something magical happening on-set. It was disheartening to walk out of the cinema with none of that usual magic this time…

…well, almost none.

There’s a small irony in ALOHA, and it comes in the form of the film’s best moment. This moment I speak of is actually a pair of moments, and both of them involve wordless exchanges between John Krasinski and Bradley Cooper. These moments come loaded with emotional honesty, warm humour, and sharp direction. Of course, the irony is that this moment of incredible writing is one that arrive without dialogue. Still, it demonstrates a firm grasp on great writing…and that great writing doesn’t just mean great dialogue.

But it’s just a glimmer; an A on a report card full of D’s that represents how well you could do if you applied yourself. I’ll go one further though – I’ll circle that as the signal that you’re not done yet. You aren’t on your sixth year of the greatest hits tour, you just need to play a few club shows to get back in-touch with what excites you about the music.

Just a few years ago, I actually got a moment to ask you a question in an elevator during the Toronto International Film Festival.

I asked you what makes a good critic, you told me that I just had to write from my heart. So for what it’s worth, and from my heart, no, Mister Crowe, you shouldn’t think about giving it up. Not then, and not now. You’ve gone through far too much in your life over the last fifteen years to believe that you don’t have several more amazing stories left in you. You too need to write from your heart, but likewise from your head and from your guts. Embrace those nerves, that hint of self-loathing, and every ounce of honesty you can spare and get back to work.

I’ll be anxious to see what you come back with.

Peace, Love, and 45’s

Ryan.