Movie Review: ‘Our Brand is Crisis’ finds itself amid a crisis of its own
“Our Brand is Crisis” is dreary. Dreary in a very specific way. It feels like a date movie but only for the kind of dates that weren’t going very well to begin with.
Even though it’s a political-ish, comedy-like misery totem barely passing as a movie, “Our Brand is Crisis” reminded me of every awkward, middling first date I’ve ever been on. The kind of first dates where you both know it’s tanking but instead simply cutting your losses and going your separate ways, you decide to see something inoffensive. Something lighthearted in which Sandra Bullock flashes the camera a crooked grin after she trips up a flight of stairs. But instead of energizing the night, the movie kills it and ensures that the ride home will be as silent and uncomfortable as possible.
I didn’t see a movie when I watched “Our Brand is Crisis,” I saw a dating profile picture of a Lisa Loeb-type in a fake Rollie Fingers mustache and it just made me shudder.
Setting the unremarkable tone early on, “Our Brand is Crisis” opens with the strains of Ten Years After’s “I’d Love to Change the World” a song that, along with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” needs to be placed within a vault and then burned to the ground so that lazy filmmakers are forced to pick another song from that “Time/Life Sounds of the ’60s” comp they all apparently share, in order to drive home whatever obvious point they’re trying to make. At any rate, Bullock stars as a washed up political strategist who’s dragged out of retirement in order to revive the dying re-election campaign of a corrupt, impersonal career politician (Joaquim De Almeida) who’s running for president of Bolivia. Although initially treating the assignment as a paid vacation, Bullock eventually snaps out of it when it’s revealed that an old rival of her’s (Billy Bob Thornton made up to look like former Clinton strategist James Carville) is managing the campaign of a leading populist candidate.
Much like last month’s “The Walk”, “Our Brand is Crisis” is a fictionalized account of a far better movie. In this case it’s the Rachel Boynton directed 2005 documentary of the same name. Whereas the decade old version was more concerned with the political machinations behind the 2002 Bolivian Presidential Election, the 2015 version is instead reframed as a star vehicle for Bullock. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if Bullock wasn’t so miscast in the role. Bullock isn’t an antihero, she can’t play mercenary.
In her hands spunky and manipulative looks like somebody who accidentally took too much Ambien and it’s making them really annoyed and very, very sleepy. Director David Gordon Green (shockingly, the same director who gave us “Pineapple Express”) contributes to the decline with a tonally awkward film that can’t decide if it’s a crazy stoner comedy where Bullock’s ass-double moons a passing bus and everybody gets high in an out of place slo-mo dance montage or a self-important faintly Aaron Sorkin-esque political dramedy in which obvious points are made loudly and –well – obviously (Hey! Did you know that many politicians are empty suits that hire people to help them say nice things just in order to get votes? What’s that? Well, if your mind is going to blow, do it in the other room. I’m eating a big plate of spaghetti here).
Still, the most irritating aspect behind “Our Brand is Crisis” is the fact that it preaches about the dangers of turning the political process into a hollow, consumable product in a movie that could only be charitably described as a hollow, consumable product. Unless you want to ensure that any burgeoning relationship never reaches that crucial second date, “Our Brand is Crisis” should be avoided at all costs.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
“Our Brand is Crisis”
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton and Joaquim De Almeida
Director: David Gordon Green
Weekender Rating: WV
Length: 1 hr 48 mins.