Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan
Written for the screen by: Peter Straughan
Directed by: David Gordon Green
IMDb Score: 6.0
Metacritic Score: 53
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Political entertainment: it takes many forms and fits various moods. It can be satirical, a bio-pic, a documentary, a high school movie. Whether the movie is about politics or the politics is the bi-product of the story being told, politics has a way to make the mundane, wordy and detailed soaked stories into almost audible thrillers.
However, we live in a world where politics is entertainment (even before the Trump presidential campaign). 24 hour news cycles are one thing, but now politics is as dirty of a word as “tabloid”: Marco Rubio is, in a sense, the new “Bat Boy”.
This has led to some of the punch being lacking in political entertainment. Sure, House of Cards and Scandal are entertaining in its soap opera and moral ambiguity, but they don’t quite hit like The Manchurian Candidate, All The Presidents Men, and my personal favorite: Election.
Still, there is something undeniably adult and heady about a good, taut political movie.
Our Brand is Crisis is about political strategist Jane Podein (Bullock) who gets hired to help a Bolivian senator (de Almeida) to rise from down-and-out loser to winner of his election.
No matter what anyone tells you, there is such a thing as “Trying too hard”. You know that person that does it: the person just makes things more complicated than they needed to be. Or, the person just adds much more than is needed.
That is this movie to a tee: this movie tries too hard to be many things and while it’s not terrible, it just not something you want to deal with.
Why does this film, in particular, suffer from something that other movies may not even get a mention? The movie throws many things in the pot: themes, quirkiness, sociological theory, philosophical interpretation, satire, drama. But none of these things create an edible soup of content, the ingredients spoil the broth.
And it’s not that the movie tries to blend these parts together: it does it in a piece-by-piece regiment. Scenes are set in what feels like random sorts of feels: the beginning 3 scenes are meant to be quirky and give personality, then it goes political babble for 2 scenes, then it suddenly gets serious for 1 – 2 scenes. This is all while not creating a through-line to latch onto.
The through-line should have been the main character, but she’s just as displaced as the rest of the movie. She’s unlikable, not really that interesting, and somehow veers from playful to spiteful on a dime without a hint of subtext.
The film doesn’t stay constant to the character either. She goes from having a mental disorder to tough, temperamental boss in 3 scenes and goes back and forth without much believabiltiy.
It also isn’t helped by Sandra Bullock’s performance, which is just full on ham. Bullock plays the main character with as much subtlety as a punch in the gut. Sure, the screenplay doesn’t help things, but she turns out to be the worst thing about the film.
Bullock’s performance is this: Sandra Bullock + Random Emotion.
What it means is that you can’t get past the fact that it’s just Sandra Bullock being her usual self in all the movies she’s been in. It’s not an actress becoming a role or stepping into an ethos of a character: it’s “Hey I’m Sandra Bullock and I’m a political strategist now!” It’s horribly distracting and doesn’t help in the slightest in enjoying the film…however you may enjoy it.
Finally, the last problem is the direction. The director, David Gordon Green, managed to make what seem like interesting happenings in a film seem boring. The comedic set-pieces (Bullock mooning a bus, a llama being run over) lands with a terrible thud, while the more interesting political bits are literally side-lined for philosophical babble and random bits of bad comedy.
It’s sad because the setting of the film, Bolivia 2003 during a presidential election, is an interesting and entertaining setting. You have characters and places that give the film a distinctly different feel and can bring a more emotional heft than most other political films and it’s squandered by making terrible jokes and creating a subpar performance piece.
And that’s truly the crime here: The base of the film is interesting, even fascinating. But the result is a muddled mess of a movie that, while has some entertaining bits, is marred by a sloppy performance and just a complete mess of tone.
The movie is based on a documentary with the same name. Watch that instead.
1.5/5 – Though entertaining in some bits, the majority of film is marred with odd tonal shifts and a bad performance by Sandra Bullock.
The Wiz Says #54