As politicians have begun their race for the Presidency and we are beginning to see party debates showcasing each candidate’s strong characteristics and highlighting their weaknesses, the timing is right for “Our Brand is Crisis,” (“Crisis”.) The movie can be seen as a funny tool to educate voters. As the title indicates, during political campaigns, each contestant focuses on selling the public their “brand.” Similar to product advertising campaigns, a brand represents the culmination of a variety of traits. For a political contestant, that “brand” can include, integrity, appearance, character, position on key topics, but more importantly the immediate public need they will fulfill.
“Crisis” is a comedy-drama that plays like a documentary, probably because it is fictitiously based on a documentary, with the same name, about the presidential election of 2002 held in Bolivia, which used American campaign strategies. Anthony Mackie plays Ben and Ann Dowd plays Nell. Both are representatives of the American agency hired to manage the campaign of Pedro Gallo, played by Joaquim de Almeida. They immediately contact retired political consultant, Jane Bodine, also referred to as “Calamity Jane,” played by Sandra Bullock, to run the campaign. Sandra gives the role her usual best, Pedro was President many years ago, but is not very popular this time around. His opponent, and leader of the popular vote, is Victor Rivera, played by Louis Arcella. Rivera hires Jane’s rival, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), which makes this campaign a personal competition for Jane and Pat, which creates many comedic moments. It is so much fun to watch the underhanded tactics each of them uses to raise their candidate’s ratings. The acting, as expected from a Sandra Bullock movie, especially one produced by George Clooney, is outstanding. Reynaldo Pacheco, who plays Eduardo, a local volunteer and an assistant to Pedro Gallo’s campaign crew, is adorable and his acting talent should be noted. Famous director, Elia Kazan’s granddaughter, Zoe, who surely inherited the family talent, plays a political investigator hired by Jane’s team to uncover “skeletons-in-the closet.” Not only does she research the opponent, but also she is surprisingly asked to investigate Pedro first and does so, against his wishes!
The lesson to be learned from the movie, which most of us already know, is that political campaigns are more about selling a brand than they are a true reflection of who the best candidate really is, what they stand for, and how they will improve a country’s socioeconomic situation once they take office. Sometimes, no matter what brand we choose, it does not satisfy the need as promised, in the same way that weight-loss and hair-growth pills have little to no effect. Voters are merely pawns in the game.
BUYER BEWARE! Just before the credits role, the moral is revealed, the movie takes a completely serious turn, and Jane switches gears. Unfortunately, in the 107-minute run time, with so much of the focus being the campaign, the brief allusion to Jane’s newfound purpose leaves the audience wondering exactly what she has achieved in her new role. Since the movie began and ended as an interview of Jane, it appears the movie is intended to be about her, so a little more information should have been given as to what she subsequently accomplished – a few factual and/or statistical slides at the end; the way most biographical/”true” stories end, would have been helpful. Therefore, if I were to give it a star rating, I would give it a four out of five. “Our Brand is Crisis” opens Friday, October 30, 2015. Shop for yourself; don’t let me stop you from buying it. – BMT