Million Dollar Assholes: Carville, Shrum & Greenberg
I love documentaries. A lot. Real people in real situations are always weirder, more original and more interesting than any fiction Hollywood can brew.
I saw a documentary that blew me away today but I don’t mean in a good way. It was called Our Brand is Crisis, about how the firm of Carville, Greenberg and Shrum (as in James Ragin’ Cajun Carville and Bob $5 million man Shrum) travel around the world meddling in political situations they know little about for fun and profit when they’re not busy losing Presidential elections.
The film takes place in the Bolivian election of 2002, when Carville et. al. convinced the Bolivian people they needed to elect Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, aka Goni, an American-born candidate who speaks Spanish with an accent and who had failed miserably once before as President during the 90s. He is elected by the thinnest of margins, only to be forced to resign 14 months later amid riots that left 100 people dead.
The problem with the film? The director, Rachael Boynton, got amazing access by (admittedly) smiling and doing the cute girl thing, and making everyone like her and feel comfortable around her. But at a certain point you’re done shooting and you’ve got to sit down and evaluate what you’ve got and drop the cute, and treat your subject with the critical objectivity they deserve.
And what do these guys deserve? Well, you tell me. The first shot is of a riot in the streets of Bolivia where a body lies dead, oozing blood. Pretty much moments later, a guy named Tad (no shit) Devine is standing on a Bolivian street corner wearing a sweater vest, talking into a cell phone and saying stuff like “This is the frame — we can brand crisis.” Now, you don’t have to be an acid bitch like me to realize that at this point you are now dealing with a comedy, and your job for the next 90 minutes is to completely savage these guys.
I’m guessing that the director got too bonded with these clowns, because it’s the only excuse I can think of for letting them uncritically gas on while the camera runs without calling them on the amazing amount of bullshit they are churning. Carville has turned into little more than a parody of himself (I am actually someone who will argue that at a certain point Carville was relevant), and about the best thing you can say is that Bob Shrum never appears on camera. Oh and it’s nice that Jeremy Rosner has managed to forgive in his heart whoever saddled him with that tragic nose job long enough to spin a pretty complex understanding of world events into a few tidy memes.
I don’t mean to be discouraging — kudos to the director for pulling the project together and getting that kind of access. But for chrissakes next time don’t let these goofballs off the hook so easy, okay?