With Sandra Bullock at the lead of the new film Our Brand Is Crisis, it was already an uphill battle for me personally to like the movie. Even worse, Bullock’s character is intentionally unlikable at the start of the film, which turned the molehill of baggage into a mountain. The unfortunate thing is the film has glimmers of being a satisfying dramedy but decides to shove those away for the immediate gratification, be it comically or manipulatively.
Originally written as a male role, Sandra Bullock stepped into this film, also as a producer, looking to be reunited with Gravity co star George Clooney, who also serves as a producer on the film. Clooney had to drop the role as the opposition to her character and was replaced with Billy Bob Thornton, who really tries his best to hold at least his part of the film together. Unfortunately, the script from Frank screenwriter Peter Straughan does everything to suck the wittiness out of this one.
The film surrounds Jane Bovine (Bullock), a campaign manager and political fixer nicknamed Calamity Jane. She’s thoroughly earned this title after having consistent flameouts in her last few endeavours, mostly due to the intimidation of the opposing fixer Ted Candy (Thornton). Candy always had her number, forcing Jane into a early retirement in a small remote cabin in the mountains.
At the beginning, two American campaign workers, Nell (Ann Dowd) and Ben (Anthony Mackie), are sent to hire Jane as the manager for their candidate, a Bolivian president seeking re election. It’s almost a desperate measure as the man in question, Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) is twenty eight points behind in the projected polls.
Reluctant being an understatement, Jane makes the trip to Bolivia where she quickly learns that she will be facing off yet again with her nemesis Ted Candy. Between this, her personal problems with depression and other disorders as well as her general disdain and abrasiveness with everyone, Jane seeks to finally defeat the person she blames for everything.
Under the eye of George Washington and Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green, Our Brand Is Crisis really struggles to find a tone for close to forty five minutes of the film. Is it a comedy? Well, I hope not entirely as it deals with the very serious nature of putting a new leader in power to run an impoverished country. What are the issues that make up the candidates platforms? it’s all to vague to know or focus on.
Within this forty five minutes we see some prat falls, vomit humor and snide anecdotal jabs between Thornton and Bullock that border on annoying as each person has a Nietzche or Sun Tzu quote that somehow directly applies to the situation at hand. Once this time in the film is up, the tone shifts to focus on the actual election race, rather than the fight between these two opposing forces. This results getting lost in its message which felt too little, too late and ending up in a confused moral quandary ending that just doesn’t work.
It feels like no one really excels in this film at all, as the end product comes off very humdrum and bland. Would this film have benefited from having the “Cloons” on screen instead of the partially unlikable Bullock or the wholly unlikable Thornton? No, we would still be looking at the same problems wondering what we’re doing with our time. This film IS a crisis of flat filmmaking and gets a two out of five from me.