A lethargic behind-the-scenes story of an election campaign
An interviewer is quizzing strategist Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), who has been dubbed “Calamity Jane", about the nature of her work. As the film dives into flashback, we see a retired Bodine, a recovering alcoholic, returning to the front line to help a Bolivian presidential candidate, Castillo, who is lagging way behind his competitors.
Bodine’s primary motivation to return to work after a long hiatus is to take on her nemesis, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton). Bodine’s mantra is, “If the man does not fit the narrative, change the narrative to fit the man", and the narrative she proposes is “crisis". Her strategy and cut-throat sparring with Candy sees Castillo slowly inch up the ratings.
Bodine’s character is damaged, haunted by the memory of an early campaign strategy that went tragically wrong. She liberally quotes Sun Tzu’s Art Of War as much as she does Warren Beatty. Jane works with a highly skilled team, including team leader Ben (Anthony Mackie), Nell (Ann Dowd), advertising expert Buckley (Scoot McNairy) and the investigator LeBlanc (Zoe Kazan). One of team Castillo’s volunteers, Eddie (Reynaldo Pacheco), becomes a kind of mascot, and representative of the future of Bolivia. It is this relationship with Eddie and his brothers that also becomes the catalyst for Jane’s epiphany.
The idea of a spin doctor strategist working on an election campaign in Bolivia, where the population’s greatest fear is interference from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), offers space for sharp political comment. However, the writing (Peter Straughan) and direction (David Gordon Green) of Our Brand Is Crisis is so lethargic that it’s simply boring. After the incisive and propulsive Wag The Dog (1997) and the more recent Ides Of March (2011), it would have been nice to have some fresh insight into what goes on behind the scenes during an election campaign. This crisis does not convert into an opportunity.
Our Brand is Crisis released in theatres on Friday.
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