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Our Brand is Crisis: How Politics Really Work

Updated on April 4, 2016

Our Brand is Crisis

How politics really work.
How politics really work. | Source

Credits

Our Brand is Crisis:R (1 h. 42 min.)

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Deep Background

Based on the 2005 eponymous documentary film by Rachel Boynton, this comedic account relates a fictionalized version of the involvement of American political campaign strategist James Carville in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. That documentary was a cautionary tale that paralleled how U.S. politics ran, only it took place in Bolivia, and dealt with how the political consultant group, of Greenberg Carville Shrum (GCS) was hired to help elect Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada President of Bolivia. As stated, the 2015 film that grew out of the ‘05 documentary took a comedic approach to the very real events of the ‘02 Bolivian election.

Our Brand is Crisis DVD

Our Brand Is Crisis (DVD)
Our Brand Is Crisis (DVD)

A Bolivian presidential candidate failing badly in the polls enlists the firepower of an elite American management team, led by the deeply damaged but still brilliant strategist "Calamity" Jane Bodine (Bullock). In self-imposed retirement following a scandal that earned her nickname and rocked her to her core, Jane is coaxed back into the game for the chance to beat her professional nemesis, the loathsome Pat Candy (Thornton), now coaching the opposition. But as Candy zeroes in on every vulnerability-both on and off the campaign trail-Jane is plunged into a personal crisis as intense as the one her team exploits nationally to boost their numbers. Dramatic, rapid-fire and laced with satire, Our Brand is Crisis reveals the cynical machinations and private battles of world-class political consultants for whom nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters.

 

Based on Real Life

The story of the film is that in 2002, a Bolivian politician Pedro Gallo (Almeida) hires a U.S. political consultant group to help him win the presidential election, that group brings in Jane Bodine (Bullock) to manage the campaign. Once Bodine arrives in Bolivia she discovers that she will actually be battling her (U.S.) arch nemesis, Pat Candy (Thornton), who is leading the opposition’s political consultation team. For her part, Bodine retired (in disgrace over a major faux pas during a campaign she was running), and was very happy to leave the field of political discourse alone. However, she allows herself to be talked into returning to the life by Ben (Mackie) and Nell (Down). Upon arriving in Bolivia Bodine is slow to take up the reigns of the campaign, at first allowing herself to be cowed by the presence of Candy.

Our Brand is Crisis

The Story

However, as she gets more and more back into step with the challenge of getting Gallo elected, Bodine successfully begins using standard American political campaign strategies to influence the process as she leads Gallo to victory against his rival Victor Rivera (Louis Arcella). Before long both Bodine and Candy are once again going head-to-head as they ply the political (dirty) tricks American politics utilizing whatever is in their bag of options so as to out maneuver their opponent. Now while the film does in fact get caught up in its own attempt to make light of the political process (relying heavily upon the fact that this is a foreign country not entirely used to the way we conduct politics her in the U.S.), and thus loses focus.

Political Consultants

A Meeting of Frenemies
A Meeting of Frenemies | Source

Flawed, but Worth Watching

Still, in spite of its — very obvious — flaws, the film is not without a certain amount of charm, especially as it does actually expose some of the raw underbelly of how the American political process works, and is at least worth watching so as how to get a better understanding of the process for those interested.

Addressing the Troops

Rallying the troops for the big political push
Rallying the troops for the big political push | Source

Another story based on Real Life

As a complete aside to this film; back in 1994, Michael Keaton and Geena Davis played versions of Carville and his real life wife Mary Matalin in Speechless a (once again fictionalized, and highly entertaining) RomCom of how Carville and Matalin — a pair of ideological opposed political consultants —met and fell in love.

Keaton & Davis

Speechless a RomCom about politics
Speechless a RomCom about politics | Source

Speechless Trailer

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