Old-style politics obsolete?
As history speeds up, this film about seeking political office feels dated.
Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck.; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) loves exploring politics on film. Directing his fourth movie, he evokes deep, honest portrayals of political personalities.
Gosling as idealist
Ryan Gosling is ambitious idealist Stephen Myers, press secretary and strategist for the presidential campaign of Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney). “I’ll do or say anything if I believe in it,” Myers says.
Meanwhile real-life activists call for fundamental social change and a democracy that serve the people. Myers’ allegiance to one politician who will save us seems naïve.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead on as Paul Zara, Morris’ shrewd campaign chief. Paul Giamatti plays Tom Duffy, the opposing campaign’s strategist who tries to steal Myers. Giamatti is excellent as a hack who’s risen to the national level by playing dirty while managing to stay likeable.
Money vs. ideals
Morris seems to be progressive (Clooney is a Democrat), but the film barely mentions political parties. The choice to ignore money in politics takes the story out of context. The Ides of March becomes more emotional exploration than political story.
Clooney is strong, sure and stoic. Morris is the complete package, a “perfect leader” backed by hidden powers and influencers.
The candidate deflects a question about religion, declaring his allegiance to the Constitution. Behind the scenes, he is fallible and forced to compromise his principles.
Jaded journalist follows horse race
In one of her best roles, Marisa Tomei plays Ida Horowicz, a New York Times reporter. Ida believes so strongly in the system and “the way things are” that she covers nothing but the horse race.
Horowicz has completely lost touch with the issues and with voters. She reports instead on behind-the-scenes campaign maneuvers. Tomei’s portrait of a burned out, obsolete journalist is devastating.
In this game there are only foes and allies who can further your interests. Horowicz and Myers joust over their “friendship” with a satisfying turnabout in the end.
Same old scandals
Evan Rachel Wood plays Molly Stearns, daughter of the head of the Democratic National Committee. As a campaign intern, her sexcapades reveal a stunning lack of self-esteem.
Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright as petulant power-broker) threatens to withhold his Ohio delegates unless he’s promised the Secretary of State spot in a Morris administration. Jennifer Ehle (always moving) briefly appears as Morris’ loyal wife.
See it for the acting
The larger-than-life cast is intense. Still, The Ides of March is no Michael Clayton.
There are no real surprises. Public officials are corrupt. They’re compromised by special interests. The pressure of running for public office is overwhelming.
The screenplay is solid, but lacks originality. There is good a plot twist as Myers is indelibly changed by what he sees. Still the movie needs more oomph.
The script is based on Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North (2008). Clooney, his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov and Willimon wrote the screenplay.
Democracy needs reclaiming
Horowicz’s words are prophetic: “Mike Morris is a politician. He’s a nice guy. They’re all nice guys. He will let you down sooner or later.”
How will citizens take back their democracy? Real life will tell. (3.5 out of 5 stars)
The Ides of March 2011 / R / 1 hour, 41 min
Cast Overview: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Mantell, Gregory Itzin
Director: George Clooney
Genre: Drama, Political Drama