' Cinema Romantico: When Dancing is Everything

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When Dancing is Everything

One of the problems with latter day Cameron Crowe has become his bizarre inability to effectively communicate a story. And I’m talking about the most rudimentary of the straightforward screenwriting basics here. Motivation, backstory, who a character is, why a character is doing something, fundamentals that usually are just inherent in a screenplay have vanished. On his recent podcast for Grantland, film critic Wesley Morris in speaking about Crowe’s much derided “Aloha” gave a monologue regarding “movie magic.” Then he caught himself. He changed “movie magic” to “competent.” As in, making a movie make sense, making a story simply graspable in what the eff it’s about, isn’t “magic”, it’s mere “competence”, and somehow, somewhere, some way Crowe’s storytelling became incompetent. The reasons for this happening perhaps only he can answer and are not our topic today. No, our topic is how Crowe’s recent films, for all their flaws, can still render moments, beautiful, engaging, heart-stopping moments. I will enter Thunderdome to fight anyone who claims “Elizabethtown’s” Walk of Shame isn't the bomb diggity. Another moment occurs in “Aloha.”

In “Aloha”, Bill Murray plays a screwball billionaire with designs on sending his own rocket into orbit, single-handedly winning the space race. His sorta, kinda sidekick is teamed up with a bubbly yet by-the-book captain named Allison, played by Emma Stone. At a Christmas gala, or something or other, they come together for a dance. There is hardly a logical reason for these characters who possess opposing viewpoints about mostly everything to be cavorting together. That’s how Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post surely feels. Of the moment she writes, “Crowe also commits a cardinal sin by wasting the greatness of ‘I Can’t Go For That’ by Hall & Oates on a bizarre and pointless dance sequence.” Bizarre? Pointless? Oh, maybe in plot terms, but whoop-dee-freaking-do. This sequence is not really about plot, and it’s not about Carson and Allison. It’s about the actors playing Carson and Allison – that is, Bill Murray and Emma Stone.


When rumors of an all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot spewed across the Internets and vigilante Twitter groups spewed righteous venom, Bill Murray hand-picked his own cast for the potential project – Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Linda Cardellini, and Emma Stone. That wound up not being the cast, of course, because Murray didn’t have final say. Yet, when “Aloha” was filming, Murray wouldn’t have known this, and so when Murray and Stone take to the dance floor, her potentially being a sort of, shall we say, Paulette Venkman was still a possibility.

Initially, Murray’s eyes register curiosity, as if he wants to see not what sorta groove this lady has but what sort of attitude she’s convey while grooving. Stone reciprocates with that patented grin of hers that’s one part amusement and one part “I got this.”  She doesn’t have anything to prove. And that, of course, is precisely what wins over her dance partner. He gives in. He goes for it. And they, to quote Kylie Minogue, “lose it in the music.” Stone’s got possession of herself, and whether or not she’s in the female “Ghostbusters”, well, in that instant, Murray still provides his blessing.

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