Sandra Bullock Bombs in Bad ‘Our Brand is Crisis’

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CHICAGO – This misbegotten political satire shows almost as much contempt for its audience as its characters do for the politicians they’re supposed to be helping. This movie thinks it is smartly cynical, but it’s about as smart as a Larry the Cable Guy routine at a Donald Trump rally. Hate is not a big enough word for how I felt about this movie. I loathed, detested, scorned, despised, and abhorred this Hollywood abomination, that is so full of its own smug satisfaction it can’t see how dumb it really is.

Sandra Bullock plays a legendary political spinmeister nicknamed “Calamity” Jane who is introduced living a sober and solitary life in a cabin in the mountains, making pottery. She is summoned out of self imposed retirement to turn around the sputtering campaign of a Bolivian politician, but the game is rigged in her favor. Bullock sets up her character’s lists of phobias, depressions, and obstacles and then proceeds to completely ignore them for half the movie as she seeks a political comeback and score against an old rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who is managing her Bolivian rival. The film makes a point that she hates crowds and can’t stand people touching her. So what is she doing in just about the very next scene? She’s going into crowded bars and touching every hand in sight.

Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton
Billy Bob Thornton and Sandra Bullock in ‘Our Brand is Crisis’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

When Bullock arrives the film tries to make its candidate and his campaign seem hopeless. He’s an educated former president who has returned to the country to run again. He’s down in the polls by 28 points, and downright unlikeable, especially compared to Thornton’s young up- and-coming candidate, who promises the change so many people say they want. But all that changes when Bullock flips the switch and goes into the same condescending this-is-the-way-it’s-gonna-be take no prisoners approach she used in “The Blind Side.”

While there are campaign events to attend, the movie’s heart and soul is in the personal battle between the two privileged Americans – as Thornton and Bullock try to one up each other with every dirty trick in their playbook. This is the relationship that is supposed to make us laugh, and move us with its self satisfied smugness.

This leads to bizarre tonal changes where Bullock is taking a trip to see a campaign worker’s slum to get a sense of the people in one scene, and then mooning Thornton’s campaign bus in another. Thornton is in full oily James Carville mode here with a touch of Karl Rove, but there’s never really any doubt as to who’s going to win, and there isn’t much fun along the way either.

Sandra Bullock, Joaquim de Almedia
Bullock with Joaquim de Almeida in ‘Our Brand is Crisis’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

While we’re supposed to scorn these political operatives, the film heaps even more condescending scorn on the Bolivian people. The script is based on a documentary from a decade ago, but this movie seems to have written by someone who read a magazine article about Bolivia on the plane over. This is a movie that thinks everyone in South America must own some kind of llama, and be clad almost exclusively in fuzzy sweaters. Plus, the young idealistic campaign worker who actually believes in the candidate he’s working for? He is among the phoniest characters of all in a whole film full of Hollywood phonies.

The film wants us to congratulate it for taking a cynical view of political consultants who spin their messages and turn liabilities into rallying cries, by spreading fear in hopes of scaring enough voters into their candidate’s column. But it also wants us to love Sandra Bullock for winning at all costs. And it all ends with one long self congratulating pat on the back that’s neither deserved or entertaining. This film should have been titled “Our Brand Is Bullshit!”

”Our Brand is Crisis” opens everywhere on October 30th. Featuring Sandra Bullock, Anthony Mackie, Billy Bob Thornton, Ann Dowd, Joaquim de Almeida, Scott McNairy, Zoe Kazan and Dominic Flores. Screenplay adapated by Peter Straughan. Directed by David Gordon Green. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters

By SPIKE WALTERS
Contributor
HollywoodChicago.com
spike@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2015 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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