Saturday, July 29, 2023

Aloha Heart: Movie Review

Slow, minimal but lovely romance.

Sarah (Taylor Cole) is a workaholic who loves her job as a water conservationist and begrudgingly takes a week off for her best friend’s wedding in Hawaii. More on her later since she’s a much better character than expected based on that opening. Manu (Kanoa Goo) is a newly-promoted hotel manager working for his out-of-touch parents at a beautiful Hawaiian resort, where Sarah and the bride and groom are about to land.   2023

Directed by: Seth Jarrett

Screenplay by: Nicole Baxter

Starring: Taylor Cole, Kanoa Goo

Aloha Heart feels different from the typical Hallmark romance movies, partly because it isn’t big city girl falls for a blue-collar guy in a smalltown, but mostly because these characters have real jobs and their personalities match their jobs and background. The characters are well written but the plot that goes with them is very minimal and the film is essentially pure romance with no comedy and little drama.

Kanoa Goo has good chemistry with Taylor Cole but apart from his scenes with her, his acting is shaky, especially with the actors who play his parents (not helped by the fact that Manu’s parents are just bad people). His parents own the resort and have recently promoted their own son to manager, and even though he’s a nice and capable grown adult, they still don’t trust him at all, give him zero authority, and outright belittle all of his ideas. The fact that he puts up with all of that is testament to Manu’s patience, generosity and love of working in the hospitality industry in Hawaii.

When Sarah arrives at the resort she immediately has lots of “suggestions” – from other guests these would be complaints but Sarah is generally a thoughtful person and understands that her pro-environment stances might not be what everyone else wants. Manu’s patience and generosity leads to him gently teasing Sarah about her endless suggestions; he’s not going to be rude to a guest but also his ideas that his parents shoot down without even considering are often similar to Sarah’s. He knows what it’s like to be ignored and he doesn’t want to do that to her.

The bride realizes that she forgot to book a wedding rehearsal spot, so Sarah leans on Manu for help. It’s their similarity in spirits and values that makes them such a great match. They feel like a natural couple and not just a forced romance for movie sake.
Taylor Cole’s Sarah is obviously gorgeous. But it’s a natural and down-to-earth beauty that she radiates which really fits the character and helps round her out into a real person. She also comes about her love of her job naturally. When she was a child, Sarah moved around a lot and never really felt at home, except for in nature. Nature was comforting. And now as an adult she sought out a job where she gets to live in nature. Similarly Manu has worked at the resort since he was seven (as Sarah says “that sounds illegal”), he’s good at reading people and knowing what parts of Hawaii they’ll like.

Sarah and Manu’s connection is perfectly established by the half-way mark, so the second half of the movie is slow. It drags a lot since the only drama is with his parents – although appropriately it does temporarily interfere with their budding relationship.

Aloha Heart was filmed entirely in Hawaii and there are a lot of really beautiful backdrops to every scene. It’s a nice and relaxing movie; the lack of drama makes it stress-free, but the lack of comedy and essentially lack of a plot makes it drag. It’s a slow movie, but it’s a lovely romance with well thought-out characters.