“Many films have “highs and lows”, but few are as apparent as Our Brand is Crisis.”
Last night I watched Our Brand is Crisis and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The film follows Jane Bodine, a retired political strategist who is brought into Bolivia to help a failing candidate win the presidential election. Things get personal for Jane when she discovers that her nemesis, Pat Candy, is the man helping the opposition with the same task. What follows is a pretty funny account of the lengths that Jane and the team will go to get their candidate a few extra points.
Our Brand is Crisis starts off on a very sombre tone. Because of this I expected a grounded look at what the life of a “political fixer” entails, but then the film turned on a dime. As soon as Jane and the rest of the team arrive in Bolivia, the film turns into a borderline slapstick comedy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the film was legitimately hilarious at points, but I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the beginning was out of place. The end of the film rolls around and it too has the same sombre tone that I was getting used to when the film started. It was then that I realized the film was pretty confused in its message. It wanted to give a grounded account of the life of a “political fixer”, just like I mentioned, but it got lost in the jokes along the way. By the end of the film it too needed to be “fixed” and it tried to course correct back into the gritty realistic story. I liked where the ending was heading at first, but then it lost me completely. By the time the story came to an end I was left scratching my head at what exactly I had just watched, and what it had to do with the rest of the movie. Many films have “highs and lows”, but few are as apparent as Our Brand is Crisis.
Past the story I thought the film was pretty well done. The acting was good, but I feel that it almost goes without saying because Sandra Bullock is in it. Besides Bullock you have Anthony Mackie, Scoot McNairy, and Ann Dowd who do a great job making up the rest of the political advisors. You also have Billy Bob Thornton playing Jane’s rival, Pat Candy, doing a great job of making your skin crawl whenever he is on screen. I already mentioned that the film is very funny, and there were a few instances of “dark situations” being peppered throughout the story but the ending just ruined that for me. As far as the directing goes, David Gordon Green did a very good job with it. It was interesting to me that Our Brand is Crisis had a directing style that was at the same time amateur and professional. It was amateur like documentary, introducing very real camera angles and allowing for a little camera shake here and there. This gave the film an extra feeling of realism (that and the fact that it is based partially in truth). The professionalism came when Green used establishing shots in between scenes. Instead of the basic buildings or highways shots, there were very real moments of life in Bolivia. The camera would focus on a few children playing, or a farmer walking down the road with an animal in tow, and instantly I would feel like I knew the location.
Overall Our Brand is Crisis was a pretty disappointing film. With a confused narrative, not knowing if it wanted to be a slapstick comedy or a real look at the world of politics, it ended being a messy mixture of the two.
I give Our Brand is Crisis a C