Sandra Bullock Shares Romantic Date Night With Bryan Randall, Can’t Help but …

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Our Brand Is Crisis’ pulls punches, but Sandra Bullock is in high gear.

Like the politicians and political consultants it mocks, “Our Brand Is Crisis” doesn’t completely deliver on what it promises. For a manic-depressive, alcoholic, washed-up political consultant of a certain age who’s dealing with altitude sickness in strife-torn Bolivia and oh yeah she’s just taken up smoking again, Jane Bodine sure looks amazing.“Truth is relative in politics,” observes campaign consultant “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) in the opening moments of “Our Brand Is Crisis.” “I could convince myself of anything if the price is right.” A catalog of the many dispiriting ways in which the electoral process has become an exercise in lying and slime-slinging, “Our Brand” is grimly satiric and thoroughly depressing.

The 51-year-old actress was spotted looking happy as ever walking hand-in-hand with boyfriend while on a romantic date night in New York City Wednesday. Granted, her outfits are a disaster and her hair is usually disheveled (albeit in a $200 salon job kind of way), and she moans about how lousy she feels — but COME ON. To its credit, “Crisis,” directed by David Gordon Green, is the rare major studio comedy to have anything serious on its mind, and that’s because its plot was inspired by an excellent Rachel Boynton documentary that came out a decade ago. The rosy cheekbones, the fashionably oversized specs, the killer smile, the great gams on display as she tiptoes about in panties and an oversized shirt: What a knockout. That film followed a group of American campaign strategists — among them Bill Clinton stalwart James Carville — working their black magic for candidates in a Bolivian presidential election.

Bullock’s Jane Bodine is a one-time terror of the campaign trail who, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, has spent the last six years in eccentric isolation in a snowy cabin. But like one of those also-ran presidential candidates who stick around for a debate or two but everyone knows have no shot at the nomination, David Gordon Green’s film never distinguishes itself. That change of gender is the best creative decision “Crisis” made, because it opened up a part for Sandra Bullock, a practiced farceur and someone with the fearless energy needed to make things funny. It’s a thornier, meatier role than she’s had in a while, one that allows her to use her well-honed comic chops while also digging deeper into a complicated, very flawed character. When we meet Bullock, she’s a forgotten footnote of the modern American campaign wars — a onetime hotshot whose ruthless strategies and self-destructive habits earned her the nickname “Calamity Jane” and flushed her right out of the business.

Jane is ready to turn it down until she learns that her old nemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton with Carville-esque chrome dome) is working for the competition. The narrative starts with political operatives Ben (Anthony Mackie) and Nell (Anne Dowd) driving to the remote snowy fastness where Jane lives in quiet, pottery-making retirement.

Jane’s living in a remote cabin, making bad pottery and apparently muttering to herself, until one day her old friend and campaign teammate Nell (Ann Dowd) and a skeptical young hotshot (Anthony Mackie) show up at her door with the offer of a job no one else will touch: lending a hand to the nearly dead campaign of Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), a former and quite unpopular president of Bolivia who is polling in the single digits and trails a half-dozen other candidates. And just like that we’re in Bolivia (actually Louisiana and Puerto Rico) and plunged into a bumpy adventure with hints of “Wag the Dog,” “The Candidate,” “Bulworth” and “Duck Soup” — all far superior films. I’m calm.” Ben and Nell, however, want her back in the saddle, helping them save the campaign of a Bolivian candidate named Castillo (Portuguese actor Joaquim de Almeida) who is 28 points behind the front-runner with 90 days until the election. Yes, we said llama.) At others, it’s trying to be a much weightier morality tale (It’s based on — or rather “suggested by” Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary of the same name). Billy Bob Thornton shows up in full snake-charmer mode as Pat Candy, a shameless political operator and sexist pig who has defeated Jane’s candidates time and again, and once again seems to be backing the right horse. (Thornton looks and even sounds a bit like a lower-intensity James Carville, the focus of the 2005 documentary).

Bullock is Jane Bodine, otherwise known as Calamity Jane, famous for winning elections at any cost. “The truth is what I tell the electorate the truth is,” she likes to say. When we first meet Jane, she’s retired from the down-and-dirty world of politics, having been felled by a scandal involving the violation of election laws.

The pair walked in smiling and laughing with their arms wrapped around each other, and we can’t help but swoon a little at their sweet (and rare!) PDA. “This is a very busy time for Sandra now while she is finishing her press run with her film,” a second source tells us. “Bryan has been very supportive and their relationship is just getting more intense. Like most let’s-get-wasted montages, a sequence where Jane and crew get messed up and engage in wacky hijinks is tedious stretching to the point of irritating. (It’s like being sober in a room filled with obnoxious drunks who mistakenly think they’re funny). Jane’s relapses, from her addictions to her unbalanced behavior, are treated mostly as comedic touchstones, until suddenly we’re told she’s a deeply troubled person and, dammit, this is serious.

Revelations about Jane’s past make us like her less at a point where we should be sympathizing with her situation and caring about what she’ll do next. They are so cynical about the process that even their words aren’t their own — they constantly quote (and sometimes misquote, sometimes purposely) famous political sayings. Bullock and Thornton are smooth and sly in their scenes together, but he’s such a creep and she’s such a wreck, they don’t deserve each other — they should just be miserable in neutral corners.

He gives us a campaign aide (Reynaldo Pacheco) who ignores the economic interests of his slum existence to become a Castillo worker — as a child he was featured in a baby-kissing photo with Castillo and now thinks he has a special relationship with the candidate. With Jane going on the attack, quoting “The Art of War” author Sun Tzu, referencing the “Daisy” attack ad that derailed Barry Goldwater and hiring expert dirt-digger LeBlanc (Zoe Kazan), this central part of “Crisis” is the film’s most energetic and entertaining. Also, it’s hard to recall a movie with so many characters quoting so many historical figures, from Sun Tzu to Winston Churchill to a certain German author. Almeida (a Portuguese actor who played the drug lord in “Fast Five”) is alternately chilling and slyly funny as the presidential hopeful, a man who can turn on the charm just long enough to disguise his contempt for the lower classes. She, along with her team (which includes Scoot McNairy and Zoe Kazan, both good as advisers), try to make their arrogant candidate a little warmer and fuzzier.

Like “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” an earlier collaboration between Straughan and producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney, “Crisis” has difficulty deciding whether it’s a comedy or something more serious, and that indecision proves fatal. Observers of U.S. politics will recognize every lesson learned here; When Pat seeks to exploit Jane’s candidate’s short temper, resulting in the candidate punching a man, Jane stops her team from crafting an apology, and frames the punch as a sign of his no-crap approach.

It’s fun to watch her evolve from headache-racked, air-gasping wraith (Bolivia’s high altitude takes some getting used to) to gleefully combative commander. Rather than continue in a satiric mode, “Crisis” gets increasingly fascinated by one of its least-involving characters, a young Bolivian named Eddie (Reynaldo Pacheco) whose earnest belief in political democracy leads to some dead-end plot detours. The volatile economic climate, the candidates promising to give Bolivia her freedom, the struggles of the people — all just background noise to beautiful Jane and her last shot at redemption. Director Green, whose resume runs from mainstream raunch (“Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness”) to art house angst (“Prince Avalanche,” “Joe”), doesn’t quite know what to do with this material.

News has learned that they’ve even started discussing their future together. “They have discussed spending the rest of their life together, but taking day by day and just enjoying each other,” another source previously told us. “Sandra couldn’t ask for a better guy. She does a good job of taking us inside Bodine’s mental state, of making far more of the character than the story would require. (The role was originally written for George Clooney, a producer on the film, but rewritten for Bullock.) She and Thornton have good chemistry as they attempt to out-sleaze one another. It all ends with the election, of course, but a subplot involving an idealistic young volunteer (appealing Bolivian actor Reynaldo Pacheo) keeps the film honest, as it were, with an ending aimed at making us wonder what it all was for in the first place.

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