The cut throat world of political spin doctoring is the topic for the latest Sandra Bullock film – Our Brand is Crisis. Brought to you by director David Gordon Green, and produced by George Clooney’s company Smokehouse Pictures. Its somewhat based on a documentary of the same name, which in turn told the tale of American political strategists in the 2002 Bolivian election.
Bullock plays Jane Bodine (nicknamed ‘Calamity Jane’ due to the hurricane of chaos she can create) – a former spin doctor that has quit the world of politics and retreated from the world. She’s approached about coming to Bolivia to help support a Presidential candidate – Pedro Castillo – played by Joaquin de Almeida (24, Fast Five, Clear and Present Danger) who is currently 28 points behind the lead and struggling to make gains.
As an incentive, the leading candidate Rivera’s campaign is being managed by Bodine’s former spin-nemesis Pat Candy (played by Billy Bob Thornton). There’s a lot of history between the two and tensions run high as the two groups attempt to outwit the other and secure the election for their candidate.
Once Jane has recovered from the initial bout of travel sickness, her ‘fire is lit’ and she becomes the fast talking, fountain of historical quotes, strategist that she is famed for. We’re quickly into her old world where winning is everything and the only thing wrong is losing. They’re not there to judge the candidate, nor control what they do if they win,they’re just there to win.
To her credit, Bullock does everything that she can with this role. There is comedy, drama, and moments of emotion throughout and she hits all of them impressively. Joaquin de Almeida is also strong in his role as the former Bolivian President seeking re-election.
But the problem is that for this film to work, you need to have both a reasonable idea of who the candidate really are, and a view of who you would want to win (the film is hoping its Castillo). We barely get to understand who the candidates are, and are essentially following the entire election by the occasional graphic that appears on the screen.
By the time the film tries to be serious, the tone feels off having watched some of the more lighthearted moments like bus chases down Bolivian mountains, a drunken night in a club and the team firing things out of Bodine’s bra at the door of Candy’s room.*
Ultimately we’re left with a film that I don’t think knows what it’s trying to say. No one is going into this film with any views that the world of spin doctors are good for the world (unless you’re a spin doctor, in which case you’re trying to ‘spin’ it anyway). Overall its a disappointment as, and I don’t know why specifically, I had quite high hopes for this film.
In the language of the film, I just don’t think that the film is going to test well with the voters, but Bullock can’t take any of the heat for that who is ultimately better than the material.
- Springsteen reference is intentional…