Film Review: Our Brand is Crisis

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Our Brand is Crisis Plot Summary:

A once powerhouse campaign manager (Sandra Bullock) turned recluse after rehab is brought back from retirement to advise a heavy underdog (Joaquim de Almeida) in Bolivia’s Presidential election.  She’s forced to go up against her rival campaign manager (Billy Bob Thornton) who’s already beaten her several times.

Our Brand is Crisis is the perfect name for this movie.  It’s just as convoluted and sloppy as that title suggests.  I would imagine that studios employ very smart people, and pay them a lot of money to make sure a film is marketed efficiently and effectively.  How is there not one person in some board meeting that raises his or her hand and says, “Uh, yeah, this title kind of blows.”  Are you seriously going to see a movie called “Our Brand is Crisis?”  No!  Awful, awful title.  I’m sorry, but that really bothers me.  How do smart people make such horrible decisions?  Rename the damn film!  But enough about that, because unfortunately I have the unpleasant task of recapping everything that’s wrong about this movie.  It’s not completely horrible, and does have a few decent moments, but its issues are as cliché as the film is.  Where do we begin?

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First off, it commits one of the biggest movie sins there is – inconsistent tone.  It’s one of those movies that feels like 900 people did something to the script before it ultimately got made.  At times it’s a cheese ball comedy from the nineties.  Oh look, Sandra Bullock tumbles as she walks off the plane.  Here’s the scene where the campaign staff makes her big introduction as the new strategist, but she pukes in a trash can instead.  Don’t you love when the tight knit campaign staff gets lovey-dovey on the bus like college freshman and chase down the rival candidate bus where Sandra Bullock moons them?  HAHAHA!  HI-LARIOUS!  Cut me a break.  But then we have super melodramatic moments where the movie thinks it’s intelligent enough to say something more, but has no idea how to do it.

This is just an unfortunate combination of bad writing and bad direction.  I give Sandra Bullock credit for adding a lot of depth to this character that’s definitely not on the page.  Some of the best moments are her monologues, which are very good.  The problem is with this character, Jane Bodine.  The storytellers have no clue what to do with this character.  She’s a recovering alcoholic who’s not into the campaign, then gets inspired by her rival, then randomly makes a connection with the poor people in Bolivia, then drinks again, then goes back to being the cold hearted campaign manager, for the love of Moses, pick a road!  Even though Bullock gives a good performance, it gets to the point where you don’t care anymore because the character has been pulled in so many directions.

One of the performances I enjoyed was surprise, surprise, Billy Bob Thornton.  You can always rely on him to be interesting in even the worst crap possible.  There was a lot of potential in Bullock and Thornton’s rivalry.  If the movie stayed on that, this could have worked.  While there’s some good dialogue between the two, even that’s convoluted.  The movie can’t decide what kind of relationship these characters have.  Is it respect?  Hatred?  Even love?  What a mess.

The rest of the supporting cast is hit or mess.  Cards on the table, I’m not an Anthony Mackie fan.  I find him obnoxious.  The script doesn’t do him any favors, but he can’t elevate the material like Bullock or Thornton.  The movie desperately wants him to be this huge character that guides Jane, but he’s completely underwritten and worthless.  Scoot McNairy plays another political strategist and is annoying at first, but becomes more endearing.  Zoe Kazan makes a small appearance as a specialty dirt digger, and at least brings some much needed charisma and energy.

One of the better performances was Joaquim de Almeida as Senator Castillo, the actual candidate running for President.  There’s some good back and forth between him and Bullock, and he provides a lot of intrigue during the actual political campaign scenes.  When the film is focused on actual campaign strategy, it’s not half bad, and they even pull a couple neat tricks at the end.  This movie could have saved face when it reached a natural conclusion, but it goes for unnecessary glory with the most drawn out, pretentious melodramatic ending of all time.  It’s fitting – a convoluted ending to finish off a convoluted movie.

This movie had a lot to say, but was extremely lazy on the execution.  The script is amateur hour.  The first scene is all about bland narrations and newspaper clippings about Jane’s rise and downfall, but it’s completely unneeded.  The audience could have easily pieced together what happened from the first real scene with Jane in isolation.  We also get a ton of exposition that is bloated beyond belief, and the score and song choices were also terrible, completely generic cheese ball fare.  There’s a few decent ideas and worthy efforts from Bullock and Thornton, but all this did was make me want to watch better political campaign movies like The Ides of March.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (Barely Passable Entertainment)

 

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.