Our Brand Is Crisis (2015)
R / 107 min
Comedy / Drama
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thorton, Anthony Mackie
Director: David Gordon Green
Our Brand Is Crisis seemed to be a movie that was not quite sure what it wanted to be, which is not a good thing; especially when your movie is about political campaigns.
Based on the 2005 documentary of the same name, Our Brand Is Crisis tells the story of American political consultant “Calamity” Jane Bodine, played by Sandra Bullock, and her task of getting Bolivian presidential candidate Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) re-elected. Jane’s been tested and has the experience necessary, but her career started to take a dive when rival campaign manager Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thorton) started to steal the rug from right under her, winning the past couple of elections that they were both involved in. When Jane realizes that Candy is working with Castillo’s opposition, things get personal and she realizes that she has to pull out all the stops in order to succeed.
After being convinced to go to Bolivia by some of Castillo’s American staff, Ben (Anthony Mackie) and Nell (Ann Dowd), things get off to a shaky start the second Jane sets foot on Bolivian soil. The air conditions begin to make her nauseous and she literally tumbles her way into Castillo’s offices. It’s not a good look for her, or anybody for that matter. However, she slowly regains her footing and starts to realize that running a campaign in Bolivia is a whole different ball game from her previous campaigns in America. She’s told on multiple different occasions that the strategies that she has employed in America do not really fly well in Bolivia, but that does not stop her from doing what she has to do to beat Candy’s opposing campaign.
It’s with Sandra Bullock’s character where the movie starts to lose its identity. Literally the movie tells the story of two different Jane’s. On one hand we have the serious and determined Jane who has experience under her belt and a whole library of quotes from some of the most brilliant minds in the world. She knows how to get what she wants and she brings ferocity and vitality to a campaign that seems to be tanking. Then we have the other Jane; the crazier side. At one point she is getting drunk with one of the campaign’s volunteers and his friends and later she is literally sticking her ass out the window of a moving bus. I started to see that this was screenwriter Peter Straughen’s way of bringing some comedy and zaniness into the story, but it really was not all that funny. Instead it just made me confused as to what type of character Jane Bodine actually was.
Despite the problems with her character, Sandra Bullock did a fine job with portraying the real life Jane Bodine. In fact, she was really the only main attraction. Characters like Billy Bob Thorton’s Pat Candy had their moments here and there but most of the cast did not really perform up to the same bar as Bullock. The whole movie was being carried by Bullock, with the rest of the cast seemingly along for the ride.
The premise of Our Brand Is Crisis is fascinating and intriguing in concept, but it has some flaws tying it back from its full potential. The screenplay, despite some amusing moments, was relatively bland and lacked the kind of punch that a movie like this needs. Bullock does her absolute best but it is ultimately not enough. Oscar season is quickly approaching and it does not seem like Our Brand Is Crisis is going to have a successful awards campaign. Isn’t that ironic?