Review: In ‘Our Brand Is Crisis,’ the War Room Goes to Bolivia

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Movie review: Bullock maintains her brand in ‘Our Brand Is Crisis’.

Ah Sandra Bullock, that bastion of the big screen. Movie review of “Our Brand is Crisis”: When Sandra Bullock is fully engaged with her role as a hotshot political consultant, her performance is incandescent.Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton lock horns in over-the-top fashion, but as a satire of Americans meddling in international affairs, Our Brand Is Crisis is a political misfire.Jane, once she acclimates to the Bolivian altitude, lays out Castillo’s new strategy: The country is in crisis, and only an old hand like Castillo can keep Bolivia from falling into chaos.

A presidential election in South America becomes the backdrop for director David Gordon Green’s film (** out of four; rated R; opens Friday nationwide) featuring a once-successful campaign adviser (Bullock) getting her groove back. With his fat cigars, gilded lifestyle and assorted dead civilians cluttering his past, Castillo seems to be a very bad man, so what’s a nice girl like Jane doing in this campaign? However, the movie unfortunately gets stuck between edgy drama and broad comedy, and most of the humor lands with a thud, unless animals getting run over or an A-list actress mooning bus passengers gets your vote. Played with a mix of sass and venom by Bullock, talented political strategist Jane Bodine is hiding out in the mountains and licking her wounds after a string of rather bad defeats. The flick follows Sandra’s character, a political strategist informally known as Calamity Jane, as she travels to Bolivia to take over a presidential campaign.

She garnered the nickname “Calamity Jane” for good reason, and is reticent in getting back to work when approached by an American management outfit trying to get their man Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) elected in Bolivia. Jane employs every barely ethical dirty trick, including feeding false information to Candy and bringing in a pit bull of a researcher (Zoe Kazan) to dig up dirt on the candidates — including her own.

It’s loosely based on a 2005 documentary of the same name, and it sees Jane and her team through all the typical stages of a dramatized South American political upheaval—muckraking, civil unrest, protests and dirty campaign tactics. (Sound familiar?) Bullock’s onscreen persona is something of a force to be reckoned with, as she goes up against the frighteningly corrupt political system with some of her own not-so-ethical tactics. He’s 28 points down and not exactly Barack Obama in the charisma department, but what piques Jane’s interest is getting a chance at some revenge against hated rival Pat Candy (Thornton). She doesn’t seem especially interested in what Castillo stands for (the movie is only marginally more curious), and her party persuasion remains fuzzy, despite nods to her past. It chronicles the efforts of a team of U.S. political consultants headed by James Carville to resuscitate the floundering 2002 presidential campaign of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, a former president attempting a comeback after several years out of power.

A James Carville clone brandishing a confident perma-smirk, Pat is heading up the seemingly unstoppable re-election campaign of Castillo’s popular opponent (Louis Arcella). Straughan has his characters repeat many political anecdotes — legends about Lyndon Johnson’s dirty tricks or Adlai Stevenson’s disparagement of common voters — that anyone in the business would already know by heart.

Which brings up the point that Sandy B. is no stranger to roles that kick some butt, whether she’s pulling a gun or just mouthing off some sass in the best way possible. Jane is a hot mess right from the start trying to work with the Bad News Bears of international politics, with Pat’s mere presence causing a constant psychological freakout. Green gets good laughs from the gamesmanship between the operatives, but in his efforts to show the election’s meaning to average Bolivians, he’s on shakier ground. In place of an obvious party line, it has good intentions and personalities along with a faith in both American democracy and the kind of happy endings that made Mr.

But things start to turn around when she gets a plan in order: Everything should be presented as a crisis, she tells her team and her client, and Castillo starts to move up in the polls as the Bolivian people begin seeing him as a strong leader. Although, this movie was made in 1994 and thus this role devolves into a bit of a romantic set piece at times, but Bullock did her best with what she was given. It casts a skeptical eye at the gospel of globalization that’s preached by Jane’s team, but its outrage is more directed at cynicism than at any specific system.

Jane comments early on that “you don’t change the man to fit the narrative, you change the narrative to fit the man” — and the movie’s phony ending shows the same is true for a woman, if that woman is a bankable Hollywood star like Sandra Bullock. Instead of leaning into the biting commentary and relevant issues of that story, however, the new movie’s fictionalized journey gets too starstruck with its own familiar faces. Boynton provided an intimate look at how politicians are packaged and sold in elections, though instructively the strategists were also true believers. “We are in this because we not only believe in democracy,” one of the consultants, Jeremy D. They are fun to watch in Cold War-esque battle, with death glares and icy banter being the weapons of choice, and their scenes together nicely hint at untold history between them.

Green injects him into the story at regular intervals to remind Jane of her failings (they’ve faced off in prior campaigns, and his candidates have always beaten hers) and to goad her into following her impulses to do whatever it takes to win, principles be damned. It’s never mentioned — there is the bigger picture of an election at stake, of course — but a palpable, weirdly romantic tension exists between Jane and Pat, as if they stuffed each other’s ballot boxes at least once in the past and now would rather not talk about it. But factor that in with the lack of real message and needlessly lowbrow humor (the suicidal llama is a particularly bad touch) and this unfocused film shows more of an internal identity Crisis than a political one.

But with all other characters insubstantially drawn and with the theme of arrogant outsiders tinkering with a Latin nation’s political processes (the consultants don’t even speak Spanish) handled with unimaginative imprecision, “Crisis” squanders its intriguing premise. Matalin didn’t play a public role in the 2002 Bolivian election and she’s not in the documentary, but the filmmakers and their stars have fun with the idea that politics is sex for those who want to keep their clothes on. Calamity Jane swoops on in to Bolivia and takes control of the situation and isn’t afraid to break a few rules or yell at a few politicians on the way. Sure, Ryan Stone may have needed a wee bit of help from George Clooney to navigate her way back to Earth, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s 1) an astronaut—a huge feat in and of itself—and 2) an astronaut who manages to save herself from a space debris collision and then pilot a tiny (and broken) module all the way through the damn solar system. Instead, Jane starts palling around with a young Bolivian idealist with leaky eyes, Eddie (Reynaldo Pacheco), which leads to smiles, camaraderie and a visit to a slum for some rueful laughs about Adam Smith and the invisible hand.

Here you can write a commentary on the recording "Review: In ‘Our Brand Is Crisis,’ the War Room Goes to Bolivia".

* Required fields
All the reviews are moderated.
Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site