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Reviews for Our Brand is Crisis Empty Reviews for Our Brand is Crisis

Post by melbert Sun 13 Sep 2015, 00:50

Not real glowing...

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September 11, 2015 | 08:38PM PT

Sandra Bullock plays a ruthless political stategist in a role inspired by Rachel Boynton's docu — and intended for producer George Clooney to play.

Peter Debruge

Chief International Film Critic@AskDebruge

So, Hollywood, you say you want strong roles for women? How about an American campaign strategist who doesn’t hesitate to stand up to or stare down the candidate poised to become Bolivia’s next president? She’s not the next Erin Brockovich (it’s one thing to litigate carcinogens out of the local water supply and quite another to pump toxins into the system), but as played by Sandra Bullock, “Our Brand Is Crisis” political spin doctor Jane Bodine is easily one of the best female roles of the last 10 years — which makes it all the more satisfying to learn that it was originally written for “Gravity” co-star George Clooney. The movie itself is something more of a mess, though designedly so, fictionalizing the incursion of U.S. marketing tactics in the 2002 Bolivian election, first captured in Rachel Boynton’s documentary of the same name.
Ironically enough, the thing this David Gordon Green-directed smarthouse satire could use most is a good old campaign of its own (the awards-season kind, naturally) to raise its profile, especially given audiences’ typically allergic reaction to anything remotely political in theaters. Bullock certainly deserves the support, drawing upon her serious and comedic sides to create a character who might as well have been plucked directly from the world of studio filmmaking: Coffee-jittery and nicotine-deprived, Bodine embodies all the hallmarks of a distaff power agent or studio chief. With her aggressively styled hair, Hollywood shades and entitled attitude, she’s either intimidatingly fabulous or fabulously intimidating, but either way, others seem to shrink in her presence. If Bolivia were a dictatorship, she could be its Eva Peron.

To quote Winston Churchill, “It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Over the roughly 200 years that popular elections have been in place in the United States, those seeking power have learned how to game the system, hiring strategists to help them legally manipulate the vote (though comedian/commentator Russell Brand claims they needn’t even bother, insisting that, “Every election in American history has been won by the party with the most money to campaign with”). Bodine thinks and speaks in such political parables, quoting everyone from Sun Tzu to Warren Beatty as she attempts to make her points.

Having either just suffered or narrowly avoided a nervous breakdown, Bodine is holed up in her cabin in the woods somewhere making clay pottery when a pair of campaign consultants (Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd) knock on her door with a wild proposal: Given her Midas touch turning dead-meat political candidates into winners, would she consider flying down to Bolivia to help get ex-president Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida, so often cast as the non-white drug czar or villain) elected to office? Castillo is currently dangling in fifth place with just 8% support in the polls, but they’re convinced that Bodine can turn that around.

What they fail to mention is that the leading candidate, a well-coiffed man-of-the-people type named Rivera (Louis Arcella), has also hired his own strategist, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), a sneaky, chauvinistic manipulator who has won every campaign in which he and Bodine have competed. Thornton may as well be reprising his Southern-drawling “Primary Colors” role, considering that both characters were based on Bill Clinton campaign manager James Carville (the direct subject of Boynton’s documentary, whereas Bodine is a total invention). Candy may be a snake oil salesman of the highest order, but it’s Bodine who’s willing to sell her soul here, taking the job without bothering to learn Spanish or a thing about the candidate she’s representing. Her qualifications are simple: “It’s personal, and I’m pissed,” she tells Castillo.

In Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s new Brian De Palma documentary, the director tells a story about how Columbia exec Dawn Steel flew to the set in Thailand, took one look and caught the next plane home. That’s the sort of character Bullock seems to be channeling here: She wields the power, but is also susceptible to the elements, hit with altitude sickness and forced to drag around an oxygen tank from the moment she lands in Bolivia. It’s a performance that depends just as much on body language as it does old-fashioned pratfalls (slippery staircases and collapsing folding chairs), though the pleasure comes in watching how Bodine’s mind works: At times, she clearly doesn’t have a clue how to improve the situation, but when the ideas start to flood, she’s a force to be reckoned with — every bit a match for “Wag the Dog’s” string-pullers or “In the Loop’s” Peter Capaldi.

While TV viewers are spoiled these days by “Veep” showrunner Armando Iannucci’s rapid-fire brand of political satire, “Our Brand Is Crisis” screenwriter Peter Straughan (“The Men Who Stare at Goats,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) is just about the next best thing moviegoers can find. This particular screenplay proves a bit light on actual dialogue, relying instead on a litany of chestnuts cribbed from “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations,” as Bodine and Candy both recycle their all-time favorite politically themed zingers. Even so, Straughan’s a whiz when it comes to inventing outrageous confrontations, including a post-debate rotten-egging that inspires Bodine’s crisis-peddling strategy and a cliffside game of chicken between rival campaign buses.

By sticking to the half-true details of an actual election (in reality, Carville’s candidate won), Green and company put an artificial ceiling on the pic’s satirical potential. Had they fictionalized the country, “Crisis” could have joined the ranks of “Duck Soup” or “The Mouse That Roared.” Instead, we find ourselves wondering why we should care about a rigged banana-republic election when they could have taken on the electoral system back home — except that things work virtually the same way in the States, making Bolivia a synecdoche for a more systemic problem with democracy.

Apart from a few amusing detours, the critique builds exactly as one might expect, with Green (who delivers his most professional work since “Pineapple Express”) overreaching somewhat in the final stretch as he attempts to tie things up with a “Medium Cool”-style moral commentary in which the ultra-cynical Bodine suddenly decides to grow a conscience. “In politics, perception matters,” the end credits advise, and for Bullock’s offscreen campaign to register, one supposes she had to find her soul.
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Reviews for Our Brand is Crisis Empty Re: Reviews for Our Brand is Crisis

Post by melbert Sun 13 Sep 2015, 14:54

The Hollywood Reporter

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'Our Brand Is Crisis': TIFF Review

9:37 PM PDT 9/11/2015 by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line

Yanks up to no good again in South America.


Toronto Film Festival


Oct. 30 (Warner Bros.)


Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan


David Gordon Green

Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton star as rival political consultants embroiled in a Bolivian election in David Gordon Green's new film.

An oddball political outing that feels halfway between a studio film and an indie, as well as something between a farce and a political expose, Our Brand Is Crisis is actually a fictionalized take on a trenchant 2005 documentary of the same name about American consultants’ not-so-pretty involvement in a Bolivian presidential election. Quite possibly a sort-of bonus bestowed by Warner Bros. on star Sandra Bullock and co-producer George Clooney for having done Gravity, director David Gordon Green’s latest unpredictable addition to his resume is offbeat and appealing on some levels but is neither as funny nor as trenchant as it might have been. It’s fair to say this won’t be one of Bullock’s biggest grossers.

The model for Bullock’s memorably named character “Calamity” Jane Bodine is actually none other than Bill Clinton’s well-known election operative James Carville, who in the early 2000s was hired to advise on what turned out to be a successful campaign to regain office by an unpopular former Bolivian president.

Dragged from the seclusion of a mountain cabin where she’s been lying low and drying out after a series of unsuccessful consulting gigs, the seemingly terminally depressive Jane accompanies a small team (played by Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Scott McNairy and Zoe Kazan) to Bolivia to see what they can do for former head of state Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), a handsome, middle-aged, upper-cruster of no evident political convictions or ability at articulation. Given his lack of enthusiasm, Castillo may be running against just for lack of anything better to do.

For her part, upon arriving in La Paz, Jane suffers from a prolonged bout of altitude-induced nausea compounded by a foggy cluelessness over how to sell the public on Castillo, whose polling numbers are pathetic. An anti-big business, man-of-the-people populist has a commanding lead that would seem impervious to anything a corrupt, out-of-touch ruling class figure could do or say.

For perhaps longer than is advisable in terms of viewer interest, Jane herself comes off as a lost cause, an undoubtedly once-sharp cookie who now shows no signs of regaining her edge or strategic creativity; with her stringy dyed blonde hair and often puffy, reddish eyes, she looks out of it, even ill.

But a weird incident in which a local smashes an egg on Castillo’s head, whereupon the candidate slugs the man back, jolts the campaign to a semblance of life, as does the presence of a rival American political strategist, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), with whom Jane has a past that is at least professionally competitive (his candidates have beaten hers repeatedly of late) but perhaps was once something more. Amusingly, Thornton here sports a shaved cue-ball head that immediately reminds of Carville.

Thus awakened, Jane lurches back to life, taking up smoking again, creating disturbances and pulling outrageous stunts like having the train from which the leading candidate is speaking pull out of the station prematurely and drag racing the opposition’s bus with her own on a windy rural road. Jane clearly only comes fully alive when the gloves come off, and no blow is too low for her to throw. Her ultimate piece of political wisdom: “Getting hurt is unavoidable if you want to play this game.”

The script by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Wolf Hall, in addition to The Men Who Stare At Goats for Clooney and Heslov six years ago) is fair as far as it goes, but the film feels half-baked, as if it were torn between being an all-out indictment of American meddling in South American political affairs and a scorchingly outrageous satire on politics in a neighborhood where no help is needed from yanquis where corruption is concerned.

Under the direction of the ever-eclectic Green, there are amusements to be had, especially when Bullock finally begins cranking up her character to distinctly disreputable levels. But there’s the lingering feeling of opportunities missed, of things not being said that might have been, of stones being unturned that might have revealed much more about the shortcomings of political systems not exactly known for their reliability and righteousness. A double-dose of

Preston Sturges-like high-and-low comedy injected into the proceedings would have been just what the doctor ordered.
At the same time, there is a color and vitality stemming from a film shot in unusual places for a Hollywood production (foreign location work was done in Laz Paz and Puerto Rico), as well as from Bullock playing a highly disreputable character and not caring how she looks or comes off; she even moons some victims of her pranks from a bus window.

Venue: Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations)
Opens: October 30 (Warner Bros.)
Production: Smokehouse
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan, Dominic Flores, Reynaldo Pacheco
Director: David Gordon Green
Screenwriter: Peter Straughan
Producers: Grant Heslov, George Clooney
Executive producers: Sandra Bullock, Stuart Besser, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King
Director of photography: Tim Orr
Production designer: Richard A. Wright
Costume designer: Jenny Eagan
Editor: Colin Patton
Music: David Wingo
Casting: Alexa L. Fogel, Karmen Leech, John Williams
108 minutes
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