VIDEO: Sandra Bullock Plays ‘Never Have I Ever’ on Ellen

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Our Brand Is Crisis’ review: Sandra Bullock gets out the vote.

Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) has had it with being a political strategist. Like the political campaign her character is trying to salvage from disaster, Sandra Bullock tries to save her new political satire, Our Brand is Crisis, from itself.“Our Brand Is Crisis” has all the makings of an awards-season contender: Oscar-winning stars (Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton); Oscar-winning producers (George Clooney and Grant Heslov); stellar source material (Rachel Boynton’s acclaimed 2005 documentary); plus a solid director, screenwriter and supporting cast. For the most part, her charismatic performance does the job, rescuing David Gordon Green’s movie as she deftly spars with key support player Billy Bob Thornton.

We’re still in Bolivia, and we’re still following some American political operatives — one of them, Billy Bob Thornton’s Pat Candy, even has James Carville’s gaunt, sickly look — but the connection is mostly emphasized to give the heft of implied concern to what’s essentially a brassy Sandra Bullock star vehicle, a patina of political awareness to a charm offensive. Or so she thinks — until she gets a visit from representatives of Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), a former Bolivian president who’s keen to regain his office.

This approach rarely works in the real world, and it doesn’t here, especially with Green setting his story — scripted by Peter Straughan (TV’s Wolf Hall) and loosely adapted from a same-name 2005 doc — in Bolivia, of all places. One is a Sandy Bullock picture, in which she’s adorable but slightly disorganized – that stereotypical hard-charging Hollywood career woman who’s smarter than the boys but single, sarcastic and addicted to junk food (even though, of course, she never gains an ounce).

Bullock is thoroughly Bullock-y as political strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine, pulled back from a life of making pottery she infuses with a narrative to her true calling of doing the same for presidential candidates. Until — and you knew there would be an until — Jane’s former associate Nell (Ann Dowd) and Nell’s sidekick Ben (Anthony Mackie) track her down. Bullock even moons the camera out the window of a bus (although we assume there was an ass-double who actually dropped her pants for this ill-advised scene). They’re in each other’s line of vision but separate, close by but very far, a metaphor for the sort of intimate/distant relationships that Bullock has with everyone. Her first steps in the country are wobbly and nauseated, due as much to her candidate’s prospects as the altitude sickness, and Bullock really pukes like a pro; when she finally gets her legs under her with a campaign slogan that’s … just … almost … not quite the eponymous line, she is pure Bullockian badass, jubilantly steamrolling dissent while spouting a Bartlett’s worth of deviously inspirational quotes on the art of war and politics.

Faster than you can say “Ay, caramba!” she’s in La Paz, with the patented Bullock shtick in full effect, as she shocks her conservative campaign co-workers — thanklessly played by Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Zoe Kazan and Scott McNairy — with her cynical antics. The problems start when her personality overwhelms the political gamesmanship: when Our Brand actually pops its head into the real nuts and bolts of shaping a candidate, it feints toward something resembling satire without ever quite biting. And the movie bounces along sprightly for a long time, with lots of nice touches, like Zoe Kazan as a deadpan excavator of political dirt, or Bullock’s habit of throwing out aphorisms (many of which she attributes to Warren Beatty). The campaign brings Bodine face to face with an old foe: Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who’s working for a candidate with “man of the people” appeal.

In mainstream America, it will not help that Our Brand also mixes its English-language scenes with some Spanish-language scenes that mostly play with English subtitles. The real centre of the film is Jane’s long-standing rivalry with Candy, and any behind-the-scenes twists and turns quickly give way to their sniping, whether it’s over battling quotes or just Jane mooning him from her candidate’s bus. Had Green really gone in for the laughs, as he did with his drug caper Pineapple Express, the absurdity of two unscrupulous Americans fighting tooth and nail to elect a shady Bolivian might have hit the bull’s eye. It’s disappointing not just because the two actors can’t drum up a convincing rivalry — less fire and ice than sparkplug and grease — but because it turns a potential critique into a glorified pissing match. Standing over the shoulder of Bolivia’s beloved front-runner is Jane’s nemesis, another American political strategist by the name of Pat Candy (Thornton).

Castillo is surrounded by staff who are skeptical of her suggestions, and he balks when she suggests that his only chance for victory is to go negative. Rachel Boynton’s doc chronicled how an American political consulting firm engineered a campaign during the 2002 presidential campaign in Bolivia, working for an extremely unpopular candidate who gained votes by warning about an economic Armageddon. Still, director David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”) and screenwriter Peter Straughan (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) deliver a film with a sure feel for the absurdities of politics.

That president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, has been living in exile in the United States since 2003, despite extradition attempts and charges of orchestrating the massacre of dozens of protesters. (That’s American intervention for you.) Boynton’s movie effectively blended satire, fascinating behind-the-scenes strategizing and tragedy. Like the documentary, the fictionalized version could have focused on the obscure but shocking story of what happens when a bunch of American puppetmasters — who care more about winning than an entire country of people — try to make history. As with the Americans working the back rooms, the names of the candidates are also fictionalized, giving the filmmakers the licence to do their own thing. There’s one small sliver of Bolivian perspective in the form of the movie’s conscience: Eddie (Reynaldo Pacheco), a young idealist who actually believes that Castillo will stay true to his campaign promises.

Colombian-born actor Louis Arcella plays Victor Rivera, the populist candidate who speaks “for the people” and is backed by Thornton’s character. The cheeky score by David Wingo suggests a lighthearted heist film, yet all the protesters hurling rocks at Castillo’s campaign bus look deadly serious. And we also get more involved in Bullock’s team because the movie gives us access to other key support players, including roles occupied by Scott McNairy, Zoe Kazan, Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd. Besides the main presidential candidates, the only non-American character given any screen time is a Gallo volunteer played by Bolivian Reynaldo Pacheco.

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