Notable Cast: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
Review: Shakespearian theater and politics, dost thou needeth any more? For those of you in need of a quick history lesson, “The Ides Of March” marks March 15th, the direct middle of the month. “Ides” literally translates to “half division,” and was a term used for 30 day months. But what else happened on that day, to a certain political Roman, a long long time ago? Who was warned “Beware the Ides of March?” Class? Didn’t pay attention that day, eh? Well, in any case, Clooney’s modern-day take on The Ides of March is a glimpse inside the dirty world of politics, based on the play “Farragut North” penned by Beau Willimon. A tight political thriller with a mouth-watering cast, Clooney not only gets a directing credit, but helps pen this topsy turvy screenplay as well. What can’t this still gorgeous man do? Don’t worry, after watching The Ides of March, you’ll feel oh so good about the people running our country, and really take their promises to heart. Wait…
The world of politics is an old mans game for most, except campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Gosling). Only 30, he’s worked on numerous campaigns and built quite a reputation for himself. Working with Paul Zara (Hoffman), the duo are heading Democrat Governer Mike Morris’ (Clooney) attempt at winning the presidency. Stephen preaches about only backing a candidate he believes in, and invests all his faith in the seemingly perfect Morris. But as news is leaked, statistics are exaggerated, and secrets are discovered; the young Stephan gets a first hand lesson in back room politics. In the political world, ideals are given up just for an endorsement and a chair. Stephan has to comprehend the road he’s headed down and keep his integrity in check if he wants to stay the same person, or give into the behind the scenes workings that give politics such a bad name. Basically, Stephan has to decide if he wants to fight the machine, or become another working part of it.
Fame and glory? Or slinking silently into the background, clutching your dignity.
Gosling’s last two roles were something of a mystery, as I expected the turn out to be flip-flopped from reality. I went into Drive thinking I’d be loving some type of badass machismo Gosling full of intensity. Likewise, I didn’t think I’d care much for the political Gosling and expected nothing but the typical conflicted government worker. But now here I am in the aftermath of both films, and I’m sitting here favoring campaign manager Stephen Meyers over his mute driver character. This wasn’t his fault per say, as I thought the character writing in Drive was a little lacking, and I loved the evolution of Stephen Meyers that we got to watch unfold before our eyes. Sure, the material is nothing new, making a stereotypical “good guy” character choose between the light or dark side, but Gosling made the part interesting for us. A lot of the intensity Gosling brought to Drive he also brought to The Ides of March, as he deals with betrayal, corruption, and dirty politics. This worked especially well here because we were involved with Meyer’s situation and could understand the reaction being shown. In Drive, there was too little shown to justify Gosling’s stern responses at times. The Ides of March was perfect casting for the talented Gosling, as he delivers another emotionally charged performance that might be worth noting during awards season.
You can’t forget the other supporting characters though, as the cast is rounded out by numerous big names. Obviously, Clooney stars in his own film as candidate Mike Morris. He acts like a politician through and through, possessing the qualities a good political candidate needs: charm, wit, good looks, and charisma. If you look at it that way, any actor could be a politician, eh? Look farther and you get two of my favorite character actors around today in Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. These two can adapt to any personality given to them, as Giamatti really excels at being a sleaze ball character and Hoffman gives a strong performance as the elder half of Morris’ campaign management team. It’s so much fun to watch both of these guys perform, and the level of personality glowing off of both their characters made you wish both had a more extensive role (Giamatti more than Hoffman as Philip was more prevalent). Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood finish out the bigger parts of cast to be envied, and more importantly a cast that delivers.
The Ides of March is nothing short of a pulse-pounding thriller that could not have been achieved without so many cohesive parts meshing together. Obviously for a film to succeed, all parts have to work together, but this does not happen in every film. Appreciating what the little things can do, we look to a few different places. Alexandre Desplat provides a mood setting score, calling upon military influenced drum work that livens up the politically drenched story. The music adds that little kick of professionalism and life to the film, which could easily have been overlooked. The tightly wound story also makes you wonder how far off from reality the political deception is, and how frequently it occurs. We hear stories of our political figures being nailed for dirty dealings and perverse misuses of power all too often. The Ides of March holds a lot of realism in the story, not getting lost in a Hollywood adaptation. The depiction wasn’t blown too out of proportion where we lose a sense of credibility a la every character is having an affair with another while double crosses happen every two seconds. Aspects of the play were kept in check as so much stress was put into the drama of Stephen, the folly of men, and the betrayal that always is a major player in theatrical lore. Drama doesn’t get much more involved than this, and The Ides of March blazed a path down the campaign trail. I may not “Like Mike,” but I loved everything about Clooney’s newest effort. Thanks for confirming everything we thought about politicians George!
Final Rating: 8.5 dirty dealings out of 10
I’d vote Clooney. No doubt.