January 15, 2016
I may be in the minimum, but I liked the very hip and unique-sounding title that this movie had. And that poster, what can that be about? Even if I did not know nor hear anything about it at all, I decided to go see just to see what that cool title and poster was all about.
Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), a retired veteran political strategist was hired by Bolivian politician Pedro Castillo to help him win the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. Big problem was Castillo was perceived as elitist and unapproachable, ranked a lowly fifth in the polls. The leading candidate Rivera also had an American handling his campaign, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who just so happened to be Bodine's long-time arch-nemesis.
When the story unfolded, it turned out to be political in nature, based on a real presidential race in Latin America to boot. I was apprehensive if I would be interested in it at all. However, my worries were unfounded. I was actually quite entertained with the storytelling, even if you can already see the climax a mile away. I would give most of the credit to Sandra Bullock who was simply delightful in the lead role of "Calamity" Jane Bodine.
In a turn reminiscent of her roles in "The Heat" (2013) and "The Proposal" (2009), Bullock plays another flawed perfectionist achiever. Her character may be high in IQ, but she would score terribly low in term of people skills. Bullock is unafraid to make fun of herself, and her fans love her for it. She actually had a mooning scene in this one! This film is not a pure comedy as the political topic was actually quite serious. However, Sandra Bullock's comic timing kept this film afloat as it tenuously straddles between contrasting genres.
Billy Bob Thornton, whom I have not seen in films for some time, was very cool as the rival campaign manager. The actors who played members of Bodine's crew (Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy and Zoe Kazan) were also quite funny in their respective quirky roles. Joaquim de Almeida caught the "unwinnable" cold aloofness of Castillo. Young Bolivian actor Reynaldo Pacheco had the requisite innocence and political naivete his role as Eddie (one of Castillo's loyal supporters) required.
This film was actually based on a 2005 documentary about political campaign marketing tactics employed by Greenberg Carville Shrum (GCS) in the 2002 Bolivian presidential race between Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and Evo Morales. It was actually very interesting to see all these tricks of campaigning and damage control, legit or otherwise, utilized to get the upper hand in the surveys and in the election itself. I wonder how standard it was for foreign countries to hire American campaign consultants to advise them.
Some wacky scenes may feel out of place like the bus race or the drunken pranks, which seemed unlikely to happen in real life and were just placed in there in the name of comedy. Otherwise, I found the film fun to watch despite the seemingly uneven focus of director David Gordon Green. It was also eye-opening, especially for us who will have our own presidential elections coming in the next few months. I can't help but wonder what sort of maneuverings and shenanigans happen behind the scenes to manipulate public opinions about candidates in our local setting. Truth, as we know, can be stranger, and funnier, than fiction -- in Philippine politics. 7/10.