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Review: Our Brand is Crisis

Billy Bob Thornton and Sandra Bullock star in Warner Bros. Pictures' OUR BRAND IS CRISIS

With it opening at this time of year, one would figure that a film like Our Brand is Crisis had hopes of being seen as a contender during awards season in some fashion. With a leading lady such as Sandra Bullock at the forefront, it appears like that would be the intention, but the actual content says otherwise. Then again, regardless of what its backers want this to achieve, I find it hard to say that this film based in the world of politics actually works as a movie in general.

Starring as Jane Bodine, a disgraced former political strategist, Bullock travels to Bolivia in order to help a controversial presidential candidate win the upcoming election. He’s far behind in the polls, but people like Ben (Anthony Mackie) and Nell (Ann Dowd) believe she has what it takes to get him back into the race. This seems like an impossible task from the start, but it becomes even more complicated once she learns that Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), her longtime nemesis is standing on the opposing side with Bolivia’s presidential favorite.

Just by looking at some of the key elements of both the story and Bullock’s character, it looks as if Our Brand is Crisis has all of the usual trappings of the type of movie reaching out for a few nominations. As we witness right from the outset, Bodine is a troubled woman looking to rebuild her career, but that’s also where anything resembling the usual award season film ends. When looking back at it, they really should have focused on that. Not for awards, but for the actual quality of the film.

I say this because this picture turns out to be a comedy that simply isn’t good enough. It’s loose, weird and seemingly directionless. Not only that, but the comedy itself is embarrassingly atrocious. As you’ll witness from the beginning, the “comedy” is more silly than anything else. The primary issue with this important component is that there’s never any reason for it in terms of its connection to anything that’s going on in the story. It’s always imperative that the narrative should benefit from and connect with the comedy in some way, but instead, the so-called here jokes are added for reasons I can’t explain.

I am 1,000,000% certain that Our Brand is Crisis would have been better off just being a straight up drama instead of having anything to do with comedy. There’s plenty of stuff that could have been used to make this more dramatic, but they chose to try to get people to laugh. This isn’t to say that the movie would have been a success had they gone the dramatic route, but at least there could have been some kind of a chance for it to flourish in some capacity.

Whenever a movie attempts to be funny in the early going and fails, you can forgive it. However, if the jokes and gags keep missing like they do in Our Brand is Crisis, it all starts to become hard to watch. This will also allow you to understand just how difficult it is to actually be funny whether you’re writing or performing. Although comedy (and action for that matter) generally doesn’t get that kind of respect, movies that fail like this should help us reflect and truly appreciate the legitimate comedies that we’ve been fortunate enough to watch.

Under these dire circumstances, I would suggest that the actors be allowed to improvise. That could potentially save a movie like this under ordinary circumstances, but the actors in Our Brand is Crisis aren’t comedians. What are the chances of them doing any better if they chose to go in that direction? I guess the failure of this picture falls more on the people behind the camera. Unfortunately, that also includes Sandra Bullock, who happened to be one of the producers if I’m not mistaken.

Even though I can’t find much positive to say about this one, I can say that some of the acting was of good quality despite the weak material they were working with. I also like that there are a few messages here that do focus on the way actual politics work. Sadly, this aspect is not used as a focal point in the film. If utilized correctly, this could have been used as the primary catalyst for much of what we see here. It would have also blended in nicely with all of the behind the scenes elements in the political world that they’re introducing us to.

Rating: R

Director: David Gordon Green

Sandra Bullock
Billy Bob Thornton
Anthony Mackie
Joaquim de Almeida
Ann Dowd
Scoot McNairy
Zoe Kazan
Reynaldo Pacheco

Film Length: 108 minutes

Release Date: October 30, 2015

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

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