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Our Brand Is Crisis review: A battle of the spin doctors that isn't half bad

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

Most critics have panned this movie and that's a little puzzling. Though the pace is pretty "lethargic" at many points, Our Brand Is Crisis is a lively political comedy.

It hits the zeitgeist as a funny, smart, entertaining and important way by taking a look at the machinery behind an election campaign.

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The best part of the movie's pitch is this: it's all happening in Bolivia.

The main reason the movie works is because it draws its premise directly from the actual 2002 Bolivian presidential election. Most names and details were changed to help transform the very real and violent upheaval of that time into this pretty neat docu-dramedy.

The David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) movie has its fair share of faults, yes, but it also successfully proves just how rip-roaring fun politics can be. But perhaps when its only about marketing, the many dirty tricks and just how much campaigns have to outcheat and outlie each other.

This fictional reworking pits two US consulting teams against each other. One is led by the neurotic "Calamity Jane" Bodine (Sandra Bullock); the other by Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton).

Bullock doesn't have to prove to us that she can act, and she's brilliant as a burned-out, been-there-done-that, badass political campaign consultant. She's lured into the game, a few years after she's washed her hands off the dirty business, to try and save the floundering presidential run of a former Bolivian president Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida).

But it's an impossible job. How can she convince the Bolivian people to elect as president an unpopular and arrogant oligarch - who already messed up once before?

Well apparently she can, not "by changing the man but by changing the narrative to fit the man".

"This is no longer an election, this is a crisis," she declares and moves to present the very unlikeable presidential hopeful as "the tough daddy" needed to blow over the crisis.

If you want to see evidence of Bullock's acting chops, this is the film to see

Bullock pretty much holds the movie together for most of the run time, with a fun, supporting cast of kooky characters. And if you want to see evidence of her acting chops, don't see her in a better film in which everything is going swimmingly well. See her in this one, in which everything is almost going wrong, but it never quite does.

A still from the film

But there are glaring problems with the film too: the worst of them all, the biggest being the focus on white US perspectives.

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The problems are compounded by an annoyingly pseudo-ending which is hard to swallow. And even though the movie spends a lot of time congratulating you for agreeing with the cynical perspective it presents, it does offer space for sharper political comment.

The verdict

Those hoping for a zany dramedy may find that Green spends too much time trying to emphasise larger sociocultural messages instead of only delivering cutting satire.

Which is why Our Brand is Crisis lands in that safe and slightly annoying middle ground where you basically leave the movie hall thinking, "It's good, but it's not great."

RATING: 3 out of 5

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First published: 8 January 2016, 4:37 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.