The Ides of March--A Robwrite review
The Ides of March (3 stars out of 5)
With another Presidential election season upon us, politics are not only on the front page but also on the big screen in the form of George Clooney's new political drama The Ides of March. Based on the play "Farragut North" by Beau Willimon, the film doesn't offer any particular revelations with this tale of how politics corrupts the soul, but it is timely, considering the general feeling of dissatisfaction in America at the moment.
Directed by, co-starring and co-written by George Clooney, who directed the excellent Good Night and Good Luck, this film looks at politics from the inside, detailing the hidden deals and scandals that go on during a Presidential election. In this case, the story focuses on a Democratic primary election. (Despite Clooney's political leanings, the Republicans aren't dealt with in this story. The Democrats are both the good and bad guys.)
Clooney plays Governor Morris, a seemingly honorable Presidential candidate whose underdog bid for the White House is becoming a threat to the front runner, mostly due to the media savvy and cleverness of Morris' new press agent Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) . Stephen is a young but formidable master of media, who is still holding onto his idealism, believing that he is putting an honest man in office. Stephen works for the more jaded Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), who is Morris' experienced campaign manager. Paul hired Stephen as his ace-in-the-hole, much to the chagrin of Tom Duffy, (Paul Giamatti) the campaign manager for the competition. Duffy sees the talent in Stephen immediately, knowing that Stephen's media skill is a threat to his candidate. Paul is also getting a lot of attention from a cunning journalist (Marisa Tomei) and the two play a cautious game of words as they try to manipulate each other.
Stephen is full of confidence and gets into an ill-advised sexual relationship with a young intern named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) who has a secret which could sink the Governor's campaign. When Stephen makes a monumental mistake, things begin to unravel very quickly and he realizes that he'll need to become as hard-edged as the people around him, if is he to stop his career freefall.
Despite his star power, Clooney takes a step back and plays second-fiddle to Gosling. The moral degredation of Gosling's Stephen character is the focus of the film. Gosling's understated performance nicely captures Stephen's change from idealist to back-stabber. Clooney himself portrays an apparantly upright man with a shameful secret. Hoffman and Giamatti exude the world-weariness of veteran campaigners. Evan Rachel Woods keeps getting more stunning with each film appearance and is believeable as the object of lust for two of the main characters. Jeffery Wright has a pivotal supporting role as a Senator whose support both candidates are courting.
The strong performances by the talented cast is the best thing about the film. The message that politics erodes the morality of even the most well-intentioned people isn't a ground-breaking piece of news, but it's one that will no doubt resonate with people. The film tends to slip into melodrama at times but overall, it's an effective drama. Clooney's directing is assured and keeps the material centered, even when the script threatens to go off an a tangent.