Political satire is an art form. From Veep to SNL’s approach to the presidential candidates each year — the formula that generates great political commentary involves a delicate balance of humor, tact, intelligence and a willingness to take everything to the next level. “Our Brand is Crisis”, directed by David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”), mixes politics and humor, creating a film with genuine insight and a laugh-out-loud approach to the world of political campaigns.
Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), or Calamity Jane as she is known in the political world, has retired from politics. For years she rolled with the top-dogs, working on some of the biggest campaigns, but her dedication to the craft took a toll on her personal life — resulting in several stints in rehab. Seemingly content with her cabin in the mountains and pottery-making, bad news comes knocking in the form of Nell (Ann Dowd), a former colleague. Nell is currently working for a Bolivian candidate, Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), and she wants Jane on the campaign. Castillo is 28 points behind in the polls and in desperate need of Jane’s expertise. Jane isn’t convinced to join the team until one name is brought up: Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), her political campaign nemesis. At the mere mention of his name Jane is on a flight to Bolivia, off to save Castillo’s campaign.
“Our Brand is Crisis” is Sandra Bullock at her finest. As Jane, she delivers a bull-headed personality, perfectly countered by an off-kilter charm and sense of humor. There is something classically physical and consistently effortless about Bullock’s comedic chops and this role allowed her to bring what she does best to the table. Her performance turns what could’ve been a deeply-flawed, stoic woman into a riveting, can’t-wait-to-see-what-she-does-next character. An added bonus to Bullock’s performance: Billy Bob Thornton as Pat and Zoe Kazan as political ingenue, LeBlanc. The relationship between Jane and Pat is dark and twisted and to watch this play out onscreen is a pure delight. Time slows down as Pat and Jane come together in a series of biting and witty conversations and Billy Bob Thornton plays his character to a twisted tee. Zoe Kazan’s LeBlanc is mysterious, but Kazan stands as the perfect partner to Bullock’s comedy.
As a lazy, but always intrigued, political junkie what I found so fascinating about this film is its ability to touch on the truth of political campaigns while also managing to have a lot of fun. As Jane and her team work to bring their candidate up in the polls, you really get to see the art of political communication — how it is not about honesty or doing what it is right, but it is about telling the right story at the right time and convincing the people to believe in that story. It’s as simple as that. “Our Brand is Crisis” tells the story of the type of people it takes to get the political job done, and its humor comes from the eccentricities of their different personalities. The writing is fantastic, and if you’ve ever wondered what might lead Sandra Bullock to flash her bare bottom at a passing bus of political enemies, this movie is definitely for you!