When I first thought of “Ides of March” I think the film was going to be a political punching session between George Clooney and Ryan Gosling.
You know the kind of presidential debate except with future Best Actor Oscar winners. I wanted this political film to be as powerful as Redford’s classic “The Candidate” or as smarmy as “Bob Roberts” but what we got instead seems to the bastard child of “State of Play” or “The Paper” set in the political world.
The movie stars Ryan Gosling as an campaign manager who believes whole-heartedly that his candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney) is the second coming and will reshape America. He is willing to stake his reputation and political career on it. He is a genius when it comes to running campaigns as he is confronted to jump ships to the rival’s campaign run by Paul Giamatti.
His boss (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) has the whole campaign resting on Gosling’s strategy to find them a surefire way to win the much coveted state Ohio.
Just as Gosling’s character thinks he is on his way to the White House, the rug gets pulled out from underneath him. Mike Morris has demons, secrets and well something that could unravel his whole campaign in the blink of an eye. What is a Gosling to do?
The movie really feels more like of like a newspaper or network TV kind of movie instead of a political movie. Yes there are speeches, controversy, reports and media. But the scandal at the heart of the film feels more like it belongs in a newspaper centric film than a political film.
I think the film suffers from split-personality disorder when it goes down this road. Its a fine line between genres and as an audience member I have to ask, do we want the story to come out? Or are we hoping it gets covered up?
And I have to say I am not sure I can be cheering for the politician even if he is preaching altruism especially when his integrity is at stake.
George Clooney also directed this film and he actually gave himself the most interesting and multi-layered character to play. His direction steers the film as a pot-boiler.
It takes almost an hour before where we figure out where this movie is going. The clincher scene between Ryan Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood is an eye-opener and that one scene changes the course of the movie. And the twists just keep coming.
Gosling once again delivers an award worthy performance but his character is so cookie cutter from other political movies. Why don’t characters ever know there is no such thing as a perfect politician? They always gotta have some dark secret buried somewhere or they wouldn’t be human.
Clooney has also assembled quite the cast as backup for Gosling. Marisa Tomei, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright all litter the political scene. Each one of them is a viper waiting to strike and they each get their scene to shine. They are like pieces on a giant chessboard.
While “Ides of March” is probably one of the best films of 2011. It isn’t as good as it could have been. I would have liked to have seen a couple more twists and liked it if the movie was more the thriller that we were promised from the trailer.
The morale of the story is “knowledge is power” and it comes down to how you wield it. The same thing can be said for a good script in Hollywood.
4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer