“Our Brand is Crisis” is an interesting addition to director David Gordon Green’s body of work. Green made a name for himself in independent films – namely with “George Washington” – but later transitioned to broad comedies (“Pineapple Express”, “Your Highness” and “The Sitter”). Lately he seems to have gotten back to his indie roots, with the Nicholas Cage film, “Joe”, and the unbearably languid Al Pacino film, “Manglehorn”. “Our Brand is Crisis” feels like it sits between indie Green and broad comedy Green.
I didn’t know much about “Our Brand is Crisis” going into the screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The movie is loosely based on a documentary from 2005 by Rachel Boynton but the feature length film made one big change, which I think helped make this movie so enjoyable.
The movie is about two rival political campaign consultants. The documentary told the story of two men, who were pitted against one another during a presidential campaign in Bolivia. The feature film made it man versus woman and it’s something to be very thankful about because star Sandra Bullock delivers one of her best performances.
Bullock stars as “Calamity” Jane Bodine, who has exiled herself from the political world after one campaign gone wrong. She is a fierce strategist and her services are called upon by two other consultants (Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd), who are sent to convince Jane to come out of retirement. She is hesitant but ultimately agrees.
Jane is known for helping candidates who are struggling in the polls. This time it’s for Bolivian presidential candidate Castillo (Joaquin de Almeida), who needs help creating a positive public image. Castillo doesn’t seem good with people and Jane is better at helping others in that department than herself. Their prime competition’s campaign is being ran by Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who Jane has a bit a history with from past campaigns.
George Clooney and his producing partner, Grant Heslov, have been working on getting this movie made for quite some time. Apparently, Clooney was set to star in Bullock’s role, but the script was rewritten for Bullock. Her performance is a marriage of her two strengths as an actress – physical comedy and scrappy dramatic work. If you mix her neurotic character from “The Heat” and her sassy, blunt, Oscar-winning work from “The Blind Side”, you have her performance in “Our Brand is Crisis”. She is great in this.
Even when “Our Brand is Crisis” doesn’t seem like anything substantial, Bullock’s hyper-focused performance keeps your eyes on the screen. She and Thornton have great, believable chemistry together as dueling strategists.
“Our Brand is Crisis” doesn’t rank as a great political comedy or satire but works as a strong star vehicle for Bullock. There are laughs along the way to keep you entertained, even when the characters are making sure we know politics is no laughing matter.
‘Our Brand is Crisis” rates 7 out of 10