By Darin Skaggs
There is no film so far this year that has moments I absolutely love and scenes that I equally hate. It is the most tonally confused movie that mixes the political seriousness of All the President’s Men and the odd, slapstick comedy of Step Brothers. David Gordon Green, who directed the film, is known for his half-baked comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness, as well as his most recent ventures Prince Avalanche and Joe that are more subtly humorous and have a feeling of realness. His new film Our Brand is Crisis is a total mess of a film that finds no middle ground between the slapstick qualities or the subtle drama with humor mixed in.
Our Brand tells the story of Jane, played by Sandra Bullock in a very good performance, a retired campaign runner who, despite her most recent loses is given a chance to bring up the votes for a South American presidential candidate Castillo, played by Joaquim de Almeida. She accepts and is put to the test with all of her challenges along the way including an assault on a protester by Castillo, her troubled past and Pat Candy, performed by Billy Bob Thornton who defeated her “three to four times” previously.
The movie wants us to like it for all of its political stands its makes so it turns into a rude, wannabe gross out comedy. The stand up and make a change political story aspect of the film is brilliant and very effective. The heartlessness of Candy is tragic, he is a man who has focused fully on his career and thrown all of his morality out of the window. Jane is a person that was going down the same path, but saw what she was becoming and stopped being a part of that community before it was too late. The film’s ending is a hard blow and simultaneously inspirational. It asks “Is being good at something worth it all if it is immoral or you do not believe it?” The whole film challenges you to find what you believe in, and then fight for it.
The films brilliant moments are extremely undercut by the movies unfunny attempt at humor. There are scenes that do not work including Jane starts to hang out with a young campaign worker named Eddie, played delightfully by Reynaldo Pacheco, and his friends. They get drunk and start catapulting items towards Candy’s room. It is sort of funny, they are using a bra to shoot these items, but why would anyone running a presidential campaign do something that would and does get the cops called on them. It might also not undercut the film if it affected the campaign at all, but it doesn’t. Several moments of Jane and sometimes others acting way too immature that could endanger the campaign happen and none of the actions are paid for. It really ruins any of the moments greatness and makes it one of the most divisive in itself movies.