Branded is the type of movie that defies logic in every sense of the word. Over-inflated and unnecessarily complex, it took me off guard with a bizarre, inexplicable charm. Looking at the movie, it’s abundantly clear all the things I should hate about it (and all the things that other critics fault it for) but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Is it a movie for everyone? Certainly not, but Branded has all the makings of a cult classic.
It’s the type of movie that hinges on your expectations for it. Having seen the trailer before I went into the movie, I was expecting extravagance, exaggeration, and hyper-consumerism. On just about every level, Branded delivers. Now, if you’re looking for a subtle morality tale, Branded won’t satisfy your needs, but if you’re willing to overlook and even embrace its obvious faults, Branded is more than enjoyable.
But the follies of the film, while numerous, are what makes Branded so clumsily endearing. For those who have seen the trailer, or even read the movie’s title, it’s clear what the movie is about. Branded preaches the dangers of rampant consumerism and incessant marketing. Given this subject matter, it’s not surprise that Americans didn’t flock to the movie theaters, drawn in by its elaborate ad campaign, to watch a film about how the very thing that drew them into the theaters is the greatest threat to their free will. Branded is the worst kind of preachy. It’s hypocritical. The entire film claims to be anti-agenda, yet it institutes its own agenda to warn viewers of the marketing agenda. It just- it just doesn’t work like that, okay? Evidently no one told directors Jamie Bradshaw and Alexander Doulerain. Branded preaches ad nauseam, then refuses to practice what it preaches. Other movie have taken the same tactic and received severe tongue-lashings from me, but something about Branded makes it forgivable.
Perhaps it’s the nature of the movie itself. Branded is so full of incredulous moments, under-developed characters, and obvious symbolism that at one point, you just have to throw your hands up and give into it. Well, I suppose you don’t have to, but it’s what makes the movie bearable. The movie is so exaggerated that if you don’t laugh, you’re sure to be crying from the tedium. For instance, all of Moscow rebels against marketing pressures to be thin and embraces ad campaigns that encourage them to get fat? Within the span of six years, there’s not a single skinny person in sight, except our two leads, of course. How do you think Branded would do at the box office if it had to cast two plus-size actors? That’s the trouble with Branded. It tries to point out the faults of the mainstream, while still operating within the mainstream. The results are laughable.
Still, if I’m being honest, I can’t hate Branded for these things. Everything about the premise should work, but somewhere in its execution, it gets derailed. Its obvious message still comes through at the end, but its effectiveness is… well, questionable, to say the least. Branded isn’t telling audiences anything new, but it tries to show something new. What results is an incredibly uneven, undeniably campy effort from directors Bradshaw and Doulerain. Branded is far from a perfect movie, but it’s so delightfully campy (and unaware of it) that it becomes a guilty pleasure that was almost impossible for me to resist.