Timely is a word that fits with “Our Brand is Crisis.” Fiery, hilarious, deep — not so much.
Still, this semi-comic look at presidential campaigning — for the presidency of Bolivia, that is — offers some nice behind-the-scenes glimpses of how political sausage is made just as America’s political sausage is sizzling on the fire.
Sandra Bullock stars as Calamity Jane, a retired political strategist who’s lured by an old friend (Ann Dowd) to the campaign of a former Bolivian president (Joaquim de Almeida) who’s trying to get his old job back, but is way down in the polls. The pot becomes considerably sweeter for Jane when she discovers the front-runner’s campaign is run by her old nemesis, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton).
Jane’s first revelation is a telling one: Her candidate is something of an entitled snob, so she decides to build a narrative that will accommodate him rather than try to sell the man himself. Bolivia is in crisis, the narrative goes, and it needs a strong, assured man who can lead. With this new story in hand, her candidate’s poll numbers start to grow.
A lot of nifty dirty tricks flow back and forth between camps, but director David Gordon Green, wanting to hit comic notes, also throws in some unneeded antics — a cliff-dangling campaign bus race, a drunken night of vandalism — that distract from the more serious business.
And make no mistake, there is serious business beneath all of this as the film’s violent finale makes clear. All the manipulation and posturing and bloviating eventually put someone in office, and that person can do great harm. It’s something we Americans need to keep in mind. As entertaining as the circus can be, politics is no joke.
‘Our Brand is Crisis’
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Running time: 107 minutes