Sandra Bullock is back in the Oscar race, no question. After great response to the World Premiere screening Friday night of Our Brand Is Crisis at the Toronto International Film Festival, you can definitely count the Blind Side Academy Award winner in on the race again as burnt out, but determined political consultant Calamity Jane Bodine who goes to Bolivia to try and boost the chances of a last place presidential candidate, Bullock nails this role in every way. I think it ranks as her finest performance ever, one that delicately plays with tone in switching on a dime from almost farcical to serious and back again. Having caught an earlier rough cut of the film I have been waiting a while to have the chance to sign
Bullock’s praises in this role and in this movie which is a sharp a political satire we have seen in many years. And the timing is uncanny. Originally there was discussion between the distributor Warner Bros and Participant Media about when would be the right time to release this film – this fall in time for awards season or next year in the heat of the presidential race.I might have picked the latter but then Donald Trump happened and suddenly the election was never going to get hotter that it is right now. “Timing is everything , ” Bullock laughed when we spoke at the after screening party at Montecito Restaurant. “And of course we planned it all this way (not). It may be frightening but Donald Trump is the only one who is really unfiltered, telling the truth as he sees it and that fits right into what our movie is about.” Our Brand Is Crisis lifts the veil on the whole political campaign process. Bullock points out when she read the script it was written for a man to play as the character in the documentary which inspired the movie was none other than famed Clinton consultant James Carville. But after co-starring with producer George Clooney in Gravity , she called him and producing partner Grant Heslov and suggested she would be interested in playing the role if they retooled it a bit for a woman to play. It is the perfect example of how the lines are being blurred in today’s society.
Warners’ Sue Kroll chimed in that after seeing the film she can’t imagine anyone other than Bullock in that part. The new trailer for the film took a lot a work according to Kroll in getting just the right flavor of the film, but she and her team certainly finally succeeded. The studio’s Greg Silverman was also taking in the strong reaction and happy about their entire slate this Fall which consists of eight original films, not a sequel in sight. That is certainly against the grain but I admire them for trying to connect with audiences with new material. And this film, directed by David Gordon Green from a script by Peter Straughan is sharp as a tack. It should play well with moviegoers who seem to be starved for political conversation much earlier than in past Presidential election cycles. “We actually did not want to release it in the heat of a presidential election next year, ” Clooney told me at the same party. “I think people will just be sick of it all by then. So it is fortuitous that we can get this out now, this Fall.” He said he didn’t really want to play the part so soon after doing something similar in The Ides Of March. He was thrilled though to have Bullock take it on. I have talked to this star/director/producer/writer many times at events like these , but he seemed particularly jazzed by the Toronto reception. Smart political satire is hard to come by , and this one about a dogged rivalry between two political consultants determined only to beat each other (Billy Bob Thornton is great playing her main nemesis) really tells it like it is about the whole phony political process, even though it takes place in a foreign country. The film most reminded me of other pictures in the genre including 1972’s brilliant Oscar winning Robert Redford starrer, The Candidate or a film like Wag The Dog. Bullock is hoping audiences will take to the film when it opens October 30, but she’s cautious. “We’ll see,” she said well aware that politically themed films aren’t always the easiest to sell. But in this case at least , I think she’s riding a real winner.