When David Gordon Green broke away from his indie roots to make the mainstream stoner comedy Pineapple Express, followed by the idiosyncratic (and less financially successful) but still mainstream Your Highness and The Sitter, much was made of this unexpected career left turn. Green has since swung back into indie territory with a trio of lower-key dramas (Prince Avalanche; Joe; Manglehorn), albeit with bigger stars than anyone who appeared in All the Real Girls or Snow Angels, and his fluid, prolific toggling between genres makes clear both his talent and his personal stamp. Though not everyone recognized it, his loopy broad comedies are not so far removed from his loopy, less broad character studies or Malick-ish dreamscapes; the scrappy chase narrative of Undertow shares a certain kinship with Pineapple Express, and the aimlessness of Pacino’s Manglehorn and Jonah Hill’s feckless babysitter have a certain, subtle rhyme scheme.
It turns out, if you really want David Gordon Green to stretch, assign him to do a George Clooney/Grant Heslov/Participant Media social-issue drama. Producing partners Clooney and Heslov aren’t formally involved with Participant, but they have a taste for the kinds of high-minded material the company seeks out; though Participant has worked on plenty of films, some of their most notable have won Clooney an acting Oscar (Syriana), announced his seriousness as a writer/director (Good Night, and Good Luck), and supported Clooney’s frequent collaborator Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!; Contagion). Now Participant has produced Our Brand Is Crisis, a fiction-film version of the same-named documentary, once earmarked for a Clooney directorial project. At some point, Clooney (who still produced with Heslov) passed the project to Green, having gained a star in Sandra Bullock, who signed on after screenwriter Peter Straughan (who also worked on the non-Participant but Participant-ish The Men Who Stare at Goats, co-starring Clooney) agreed to flip the protagonist’s gender to female.
Continue reading Spotlight on the Social Issue Drama: David Gordon Green and Thomas McCarthy take their shots