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John’s Rating: 8/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.3/10
(2 reviews total)
The Ides of March is a slick thriller with a clear message: idealism and hope have no place in politics. Succumb to these feelings and you’re finished. Yes, it’s not a new thesis, but it’s one that director George Clooney presents unflinchingly. There are moments in this film that I felt real despair, and considering the only real trick up Clooney’s sleeve is a finely-tuned screenplay (which he co-wrote along with Grant Heslov and original playwright Beau Willimon), I’d say The Ides of March is a triumph.
Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers, a young but very shrewd political strategist working on the presidential campaign of Governor Mike Morris (Clooney). Morris, a Democrat, is ahead of his only remaining democratic challenger, Senator Pullman, heading into the very important Ohio primary. His margin is small, however, and the nomination will likely hinge on how the two men fare in the Buckeye State.
Shortly before the primary, Stephen gets a call from Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the rival campaign manager, asking for a meeting. Stephen reluctantly accepts and finds out that Duffy has a seemingly foolproof strategy: recruit Republicans to vote for his candidate in the primary and offer Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) the position of Secretary of State in exchange for his delegates. Both actions would likely sink Morris and give Pullman the nomination. Stephen, however, knows revealing this to his boss, Paul (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) would result in his expulsion from the campaign. Instead, he confides in an intern, Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), whom he begins sleeping with. After Paul meets with Thompson and learns how difficult it’s going to be to win the man’s support (which would virtually clinch the nomination for Morris as well), Stephen decides he must come clean. However, the fallout from this admission is monumental, as is the fallout that occurs when Stephen learns his candidate — the one man he truly believes can bring positive change to people’s lives — has a pretty big skeleton in his closet.
As you can see, The Ides of March is dense stuff, and it takes a while to really get into things. But once it does, it doesn’t relent. I thought the film could’ve used a little more room to breathe, especially in the third act, when Stephen starts to really see how deep the rabbit hole goes. This would have allowed the impact of what’s happening sink in. Still, there’s a very deliberate pacing to the film, which is hard to fault, and the Sorkin-esque dialogue works well with the pace Clooney develops.
Ryan Gosling has been ubiquitous lately, also appearing in Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love just in the last two months. I preferred his performance in Nicolas Winding Refn’s film, but he’s also stellar here. His character has an arc most actors dream of, and Gosling manages to make us care for him, despite the ease with which he manipulates those around him. Clooney, surprisingly, stays in the background for most of the film, but he’s his usually solid self. Paul Giamatti is great and gets to chew the scenery a little, especially late in the film. The two stars, however, are Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood. The former owns the film’s strongest scene (during which he gives Stephen the most important lesson of his life), while the latter just oozes spunk and charm before breaking down into a pool of vulnerability. She, like Gosling, has a great arc, and Wood is more than capable of pulling off the complex role.
I think The Ides of March will work best for those with a predisposed interest in politics. There’s very little time to get initiated with what these individuals are talking about, and those without much knowledge of the process could find themselves lost. But the film is still refreshingly straightforward and exciting, with exceptional performances and a lot of food for thought. Oscar voters, I expect, will eat it up, as will the over-30 crowd. Clooney, of course, is Hollywood’s golden boy, and though I don’t think this effort lives up to his incredible 2005 directorial effort, Good Night and Good Luck, he proves again here how capable a filmmaker he is.
The Ides of March
Directed by George Clooney
Written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti
Other Player Affinity Staff Reviews
Steven thought: “The Ides of March shows us an ugly and somewhat superficial world. There’s a bit of a soap-opera glamorization to various elements of the plot (affairs, back-stabbing, deception, etc.), but the actors hold it down with integrity. Vets Hoffman and Giamatti give the film its backbone as two hard-nosed guys as blunt as the film’s feelings on politics. Gosling and Wood demonstrate as much talent as any young actors working today, though Gosling’s stardom should be a foregone conclusion at this point. Clooney excels at taking us on Stephen’s journey and creating accessibility where the script lays on thick jargon. Some might see the film’s end as the beginning of a new chapter cut short, but it holds out hope that cycles of corruption feeding corruption do have the power to end.” Rating: 8.5/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.3/10