Dearest Blog: Welcome to Awards Season, where every film feels vaguely like it *could* be based on a true story. Thus, yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for two stories that kinda sorta seem like they maybe could be a little bit real: Our Brand is Crisis and Burnt.
First on my agenda: Our Brand is Crisis.
An American political strategist reluctantly becomes part of an unpopular Bolivian presidential candidate's team.
Our Brand is Crisis probably isn't a bad movie for any other time of year, but plunked down in October, when everything either hopes for an Oscar or hopes to scare the pants off of you, it seems an inexcusably poor offering. Crisis is hilarious at times, yet the premise is so depressing it feels wrong to laugh.
The film never really earns your full attention, and, sadly, there's no amount of humor that could buoy this all-too-real real depiction of politics with no soul. If there's any good news to be had, it's that the movie boasts uniformly strong performances. Sandra Bullock has a few bravura moments that might justify another Oscar nod, Billy Bob Thornton is an able adversary, and the delightful Anthony Mackie is solid as always. The real star of the picture, though, is Bolivian actor Reynaldo Pacheco, whose earnestness single-handedly salvages what's otherwise a depressing exercise in cynicism.
Our Brand is Crisis clocks in at 107 minutes and is rated R for "language including some sexual references."
It provides a few good laughs, but Our Brand is Crisis is a mostly-discouraging look at the political process.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Our Brand is Crisis gets five.
Next on the docket: Burnt.
Bradley Cooper stars as Adam Jones, a brilliant chef who is so messed up he does nothing but hurt the people who care for him, and you'll be too distracted by those baby-blues to really care.
Dear reader(s), I don't mean to belittle chefs, as nobody--and I mean NOBODY--has a greater regard for food than I do (as my profile photo will attest), but I am unsold on any attempt to portray a chef, even the world's greatest, as some kind of rock star worthy of a feature film. I'm something of a rock star, myself, when it comes to secretaries, and last I looked, Angelina Jolie wasn't queuing up play me on the big screen anytime soon.
Thus Burnt starts out at an insurmountable handicap: it's just not that great a story. The high-emotion, high-stakes kitchen scenarios may accurately portray behind-the-scenes action at the world's finest dining establishments, but the drama seems plain silly (is it *such* a tragedy if the scallops are a bit overdone?), and the rest of the story is so done-to-death you won't care about any of it for a single second. Bradley Cooper swaggers his way through the film like an actual rock star, and, to his credit, makes the dull exercise almost watchable.
Daniel Bruhl is terrific as Jones' supportive and long-suffering friend, and Matthew Rhys is outstanding as his top rival. Sadly, though, fantastic performances can't save a lame premise that's predictably executed.
Burnt runs 101 minutes and is rated R for "language throughout."
Much like the pretentious dishes whose preparation it depicts, Burnt is far more interested in collecting awards than it is in actually satisfying anyone.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Burnt gets four.
Until next time...