Sandra Bullock, one of my favorite actresses, is very much worth watching — even in a somewhat wobbly and very cynical political farce like “Our Brand Is Crisis.’’ She’s in top form.
Bullock plays the fictionalized “Calamity’’ Jane Bodine in David Gordon Green’s very loose adaptation of a documentary about battling American political consultants who shaped the 2002 Bolivian presidential election.
Both consultants were men in real life, but one of the roles in this long-in-development project (originally intended for producer George Clooney) was rewritten to Bullock’s strengths as a comedian (including slapstick skills we haven’t seen in some time) and dramatic actress.
Bullock’s Jane goes to town as a ruthless consultant who is recruited out of retirement by a couple of other desperate consultants (Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd) four years after a tragic incident led to substance-abuse problems and a breakdown.
They convince Jane — renowned for jump-starting the campaigns of losers — to lend her expertise to an arrogant and charmless former Bolivian president who even looks like a bad guy (Joaquim de Almeida, often cast in American films as a drug lord) and is languishing in fifth place in the presidential polls.
Once she gets over altitude sickness and her revulsion for the ex-president, Jane’s proposes an American-style campaign that offers the candidate up as the only solution to a manufactured “crisis” in Bolivia — arguing that voters will fall back on the familiar candidate rather than a more hopeful newcomer when they are afraid.
She also masterminds lots of dirty tricks aimed at the charismatic front-runner, including smearing him as a Nazi sympathizer.
Our heroine is energized by her longtime rivalry with the other candidate’s American consultant, whose ruthless tactics in an earlier election she suspects may have led to her breakdown.