Our Brand is Crisis: Movie Review

Last night was a first for me: I went to a movie by myself at 9:30 p.m. on a Friday. (It was for an assignment though!) There were four other people in the theater if that tells you anything about the popularity of the political satire.

“Our Brand is Crisis” has its basis in a documentary that shares its name. Released in 2005, the documentary gives unparalleled access to how one American political consulting group built a 2002 Bolivian presidential campaign.

The movie isn’t phenomenal. Sandra Bullock pulls you in, but the rest of the film just moves along. I appreciated some of the context the movie provided though. (If you’ve seen the documentary, there are a handful of parallel scenes in the movie).

Jane Bodine, played by Sandra Bullock, has closed herself off from the world after her career as a well-known political strategist. She’s known as Calamity Jane in political circles, but at the beginning of the movie makes pottery high up in the mountains.

“I’m calm now,” she says.

But that changes as she dives into the world of Bolivian presidential campaigns—she’s in charge of directing the campaign of former president and losing candidate, Castillo. He’s 28 points behind the polls.

The political satire is based on the award-winning documentary with the same name. In the 2005 film, director Rachel Boynton takes us through the back doors and views of how an American political consulting group, Greenberg Carville Shrum, make a Latin American presidential campaign.

As presidential election nears closer we see different sides of Jane: a fierce competitor, an intelligent and ruthless strategist, but also someone who is equally as cynical as she is competitive.  So what exactly is she doing in Bolivia?

In part, it’s personal. And the tango between Jane and her rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thorton) is entertaining and provided the majority of the laughs. (She and a few friends she’s made launch a green, slimy ball of some plant at his hotel door).  As we get to know Jane more, we see a little bit more of the satire the film is trying to get across: even if you win a campaign, how successful can you be?

Through the laughs, there are snippets of the political reality that gripped Bolivia in 2002: indigenous groups protesting for better representation, an opposition to more privatization and a history of military coups. These snippets, though brief, made the movie much more believable (not all of Latin America is a hot, steamy jungle).

But the ending lacks in some of the charisma the movie had shown throughout. We don’t leave with a new lesson about politics or its inner workings: “It’s advertising,” Jane says. “And then you profit from it.”