David Gordon Green based his latest film, a political comedy written by Peter Straughan (an Oscar nominee for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), on Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary of the same name about Greenberg Carville Shrum’s machinations in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. In the fictional Bolivia, political strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) takes on her archrival, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton, who bears more than a passing resemblance to James Carville’s skull-like visage), while trying to get her presidential candidate, Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), re-elected.
After wasting away in sophomoric pot humor post-Pineapple Express (Your Highness was terrible; The Sitter a bit better), the once-acclaimed DGG returns to more adult fare with minor success. Though not meant to be a laugh riot, Our Brand is Crisis never really catches any comic fire, though it has a slight satiric burn. The sometimes sharpened political points can be dulled by the narrative focus on Jane. Her history of instability (how do you think she earned the nickname “Calamity?”) returns with her addictions (smoking and drinking) as soon as she steps back onto the campaign trail. Bullock can naturally balance humor and seriousness, but the movie is too much Jane and not enough politics. If the sporadically entertaining Our Brand is Crisis encourages more viewers like me to seek out Boynton’s documentary, which I can only assume stays on message better, it will have made a difference.
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