The Ides of March, Meh
Just watched the 2011 American political drama, The Ides of March, directed by George Clooney from a screenplay adapted from the 2008 play, Farragut North. The film starts out strong with an ensemble cast, including Ryan Gosling, George Clooney (duh), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood. The film focuses on the Jr. Campaign Manager, Stephen Meyers (Gosling), working for Sr. Campaign Manager, Paul Zara (Hoffman), of Mike Morris Clooney), Gov. of Pennsylvania and a Democratic presidential candidate. The drama of the film really starts when Tom Duffy (Giamatti), Campaign Manager of Morris’s rival, approaches Stephen Meyers about a position on Pullman’s campaign, planting a seed of doubt and later on, a seed of mistrust. The story continues to unravel from that point, as things at stake are not only personal, but also political. Ultimately, however, the film fails to make anything more than and indirect muffled commentary on the political realm of today.
1. The calm before the... storm?The Ides of March really nails the quiet drama; you can really feel there’s something about to go wrong, and everyone is rather unhappy. But they’re still walking slowly, talking quietly and handling their business in a pretty civil matter. As predictable as the movie is, you’d think the excitement would come out in these characters’ emotions and reactions, but apparently everyone’s been popping the Ambien. Maybe political drama is a bit different than action drama, but I was unprepared for this kind of calm. Aren’t most political offices busy and bustling, with interns doing a thousand things, and putting in about 80hr weeks with little to no pay. Look in the background though, the rooms are barely half-full, the phones hardly ring and a lowly intern like, Molly (Wood), has time to stand in Stephen’s doorway and aggressively flirt with him. Meh, point is the drama is rather muted and the payoff is not really worth it. If you’re gonna choose to be predictable, at least stir it up a little with something striking. Enough with the calm - where’s my storm?
2. Predictability or Stupidity? Many people have described this film as “predictable”, and while it definitely has unsurprising major plot points, the logic of most characters threw me for a loop. Stephen Meyers is described as “The Brain”, someone who can play most people like a chess piece and way ahead of the game. There are a few implications here and there that Stephen has “played dirty” in the past, and worked so many more campaigns than the average thirty-year-old. One would think that he would handle most crises in a cool and collected fashion, but instead he’s dramatically standing in shadowy hallways, making dramatic phone calls and giving / receiving dramatic speeches. Apparently Stephen’s not so brainy, and makes poor decisions that lead to consequences you could see a mile away. So yes, predictable - but only because the audience knows better.
3. We actually don’t get to see that much... We don’t. Many of the major plot points are merely talked about and referenced, but we miss it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was tired of listening to people talking. Movies aren’t just about listening, but also about seeing so why doesn’t this movie show me something! Instead I get the voicemail of a tragic event or the phone call that’s about to shatter dreams. Enough already! It’s an interesting idea that our lives can be so dramatically thrown off through our communicative means, but unless I actually see some physical effects the damage is going to feel rather distant. It almost feels like nothing really happens to Stephen, because no one’s voice gets any louder than a frustrated cry. You never see the damage, so why care?
So in the end all the actors are great, of course, with such a stellar cast, but who the hell cares otherwise? What large, profound statement would this be making about our political system if it never really raises its voice? The audience does get to see the interesting evolution of Gosling’s character, from a “brainy” upstart to a hardened political force. But there isn’t much insight into his internal struggle over the events, or anyone else’s for that matter. Molly may have been the most emotional character, but even then her reactions to those emotions don’t really seem to add up. At the final shot, and we get our final dramatic stare from our lovely Gosling, you stare back and ask yourself “Is that it?” And yes, that is it.