Our Brand is Crisis
Warner Bros., 2015
Our Brand is Crisis is a political satire starring Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton. Bullock plays “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a retired political consultant dragged back into the thick of it, while Thornton plays Pat Candy, the rival political consultant who drove her into retirement.
“Calamity” Jane is happy and calm after spending some time away from the political arena, but is pulled back in when she’s hired to help a deeply unpopular candidate, former president and current Senator Castillo, to win the election for President of Bolivia. It’s an uphill battle that she doesn’t think they can win… until she finds an angle. Instead of changing the candidate by making him look humble and sensitive, she spins the direction of the campaign to fit his strengths. In other words, she manufactures a sense of crisis and presents Castillo as a resilient fighter with the best chance of dealing with it.
Based on a documentary of the same name, George Clooney produced this political comedy which is very loosely based on a true story about a 2002 Bolivian presidential election campaign headed by a fictionalized version of James Carville’s Washington DC-based political consulting firm.
Here’s something of local interest; principal photography on the film took place in New Orleans, and additional filming took place in the Bonnet Carré Spillway in Norco, located in St. Charles Parish!
What can I say? Everybody loves Sandra Bullock. But don’t expect her usual perky rom-com persona. She starts off playing Jane as worn-out, bitter and jaded, and we only start to see the Sandra we know start to shine through when she gets some fire in her belly. She delivers a solid performance.
Billy Bob Thornton has mastered the ability to be creepy and likable at the same time, and his role in this film is no exception. His portrayal of Pat Candy, which is clearly inspired by real-life political consultant James Carville, should be a real thrill for Billy Bob fans. Pat Candy is the political consultant for the opposing candidate. He’s slick, smart, and he plays dirty. And every time Jane has faced-off with Candy in the political arena, his candidate has beaten her candidate every time. It’s very obvious that she doesn’t actually believe in Castillo as a Presidential candidate. The desire to finally beat Candy is her biggest motivation to win this election.
I’ll be honest. Our Brand is Crisis isn’t for everyone. While I enjoyed it, I must say that you must have some interest in how the political machine ticks to really get into this movie. The previews try to sell this as a Bullock/Thornton snarkfest, and while there are definitely some comedic moments and a fair share of “funny ha-ha” lines, it really is more a play-by-play of a Bolivian presidential election headlined by Bullock. It was interesting to see an election outside of the United States, effectively removing the polarizing liberal vs. conservative viewpoint. This story seems to evolve more from a cynical “all politicians are cut from the same cloth” perspective.
In its opening weekend, Our Brand is Crisis was projected to make $5 to 7 million from 2,202 theaters. Unfortunately it only ended up grossing $3.3 million, finishing eighth at the box office and making it the lowest opening of Bullock’s career, beating 1996’s Two if By Sea’s meager haul of $4.7 million.
Our Brand is Crisis is rated R, for language and sexual references.