Cameron Crowe has a new movie out this weekend, and given his career over the past decade, what happened to Cameron Crowe? is not an unreasonable question. It’s not quite what happened to Rob Reiner? or what happened to M. Night Shyamalan?, though, and I do wonder how fair it is to Crowe’s gifts as a filmmaker and, moreover, the simple facts of his filmography. In the past fifteen years, Crowe made his dream project and won a screenplay Oscar for it (Almost Famous); notched his second and third-highest grossing movies ever (Vanilla Sky and We Bought a Zoo); and suffered one unequivocal critical and commercial flop in the form of Elizabethtown. Nonetheless, the Crowe brand (if we can label Crowe’s films as things that can, in fact, be sold, bought, and processed) is obviously in disrepair as Aloha cruises into theaters with limited press screenings and heavy embargos on anyone who managed to catch one.
I haven’t seen Aloha—I couldn’t make it to that one screening they had—but I will see it this weekend, because twice Crowe has made one of my favorite movies ever. Besides the aforementioned Almost Famous, there’s Say Anything, or as I frequently refer to it, a better John Hughes movie than anything John Hughes ever made. In between accessible masterpieces, Crowe used to make good movies like Singles and Jerry Maguire (which I recognize as the Crowe movie that probably means the most to “them,” the nebulous moviegoing public); now, after his last couple of in-betweeners without a great movie to chase them, anything as good as Singles would be greeted rapturously. Early word suggests that Aloha suggests it will not be greeted rapturously. Still, I hold out hope for the Crowe of old, even if it’s in minor form.