Sandra Bullock, Anthony Mackie and Billy Bob Thornton Spill Major Secrets …

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Our Brand Is Crisis’ review: Sandra Bullock delivers wry election drama.

The Sandra Bullock-starring “Our Brand Is Crisis,” is an acidic, biting political satire that asserts the notion that marketing has taken over the democratic process.Sandra Bullock stars as “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a ruthless but retired political strategist and tactician – the polite translation of spin doctor — who, when the film opens, has had some sort of meltdown and has downshifted, now living a secluded life in a log cabin. There’s truth in that thesis, especially since the film is based on a documentary of the same name that captured the machinations of American political and branding consultants for hire during a 2002 election in Bolivia.

She’s reluctant to emerge from retirement until she’s informed by manipulative consultants played by Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd that her former mentor and longtime nemesis, Pat Candy, an American consultant played by Billy Bob Thornton, is managing the campaign of Castillo’s opponent, the charismatic, poll-topping frontrunner. They’ve secured a contract with a presidential candidate, Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), in Bolivia and are heading for parts South with a team including branding guru Buckley (Scoot McNairy). Candy, whose behavior and accomplishments contributed to her breakdown, is a fictional character clearly inspired by real-life political operative James Carville, who was in fact connected to the real-life campaign. Director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, All the Real Girls, George Washington, Undertow, Your Highness, The Sitter) combines political intrigue with slapstick comedy, but keeps things very decidedly on the surface, not taking much advantage of his ensemble and showing little if any interest in the people – the actual voters in this election — of Bolivia. Jane is a perfect role for Bullock’s everywoman persona — she plays her as a bit of an idiot savant, rumpled, constantly clutching a half-eaten bag of salty snacks, outfitted in her ever present trench coat and glasses.

The fictionalized screenplay by Peter Straughn about political campaigning, dirty tricks, and meddling in foreign elections, was “suggested by” the identically titled 2006 documentary by Rachel Boynton, and both are based on the real-life 2002 Bolivian presidential election, in which American political strategies and techniques were employed. She spouts Sun Tzu and Machiavelli quotes at random, but she’s clear-eyed and not a sycophant, which allows her to see through the mess of Castillo’s campaign. Bullock’s lead role was originally intended for George Clooney – the counterpart real-life consultant was male — who then became one of the film’s producers and offered the switched-to-female role to his Gravity co-star, who also served as an executive producer. Bullock is likable as the clumsy, quote-happy, revenge-and-redemption-seeking lead despite sometimes acting despicably, and her penchant for physical comedy gets a full, funny airing – whether it should or not.

And Thornton adds another scoundrel to his personal rogues’ gallery in the film’s best scenes, which are those in which Bullock and Thornton share the screen and indulge in screwball banter that’s sharp and fun to hear. The team, and the film, harbor no starry-eyed belief in Castillo as a candidate — he’s basically the Donald Trump of Bolivia, a billionaire who’s been president once before. This is undermined in the eleventh hour by an implausible change of heart that feels tacked on to please focus groups and give the film a Hollywood ending.

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