Review: Clooney's 'Ides Of March' is smart conversation-starter
Film doesn't work dramatically as a whole, but still packs a punch
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating B+
It will not come as a shock to any moderately-aware adult living in America that modern politics is a shell game for the corrupt, but even if you already know the ideas that fuel George Clooney's latest film as a director, "Ides Of March," there is a certain amount of dramatic pleasure to be taken from watching the exact moment where someone's idealism flickers out and dies forever. While the film's script has some issues, and there are a few choices that I found distracting, overall, this is a solid adult drama that benefits enormously from a strong and compelling cast.
Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is the assistant campaign manager for Governor Michael Morris (George Clooney), a tough-talking Democratic Presidential candidate still mired in primary season. Steven and his superior, the much-more-jaded Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), are both confident that they've got a winning candidate in Morris, but for Stephen it goes deeper than that. Paul's a killer, the sort of campaign manager who puts victory above everything else, while Stephen actually still feels like he needs to believe in the person he's working for, and in Morris, he feels like he finally has that Presidential idea, a good man with good ideas. Their opponent in the primaries, Sentator Pullman (Michael Mantell), is a faceless obstacle to them, represented mainly by his campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). Duffy admires Stephen and the way he works a room, and he makes no secret of the fact that he'd love to hire Stephen away.
- Check out everything there is including photos, reviews, videos.
Ryan Gosling is one of the most interesting young guys working today, and I like him for the same reason I like Clooney in the film. You can see them thinking. These are smart people, and for me to invest in the movie, I have to be able to believe in the chess game they're playing. There's a scene near the end of the film between the two of them that is my favorite moment in the movie, and it never turns into a cheap case of histrionics. Instead, I get the feeling this is the way many decisions are made, with subtle and unsubtle demonstrations of power from both sides. Gosling's having a great year as a performer, and he manages to carry the film and be appealing even as we watch his soul ebb away.
My problem is that the way they present the inner working of the political machine is both too simplified for general audiences and too familiar. There is a scandal brewing that Stephen learns about, and while I'm glad Clooney was smart enough to give Morris feet of clay, I wish they'd come up with something else as the scandal. This seems somewhat pedestrian, and the resolution of things depends on some of the shoddiest police work in the history of shoddy police work. There are a few too many conveniences, moments where things fall into place for dramatic purpose but without feeling genuine. It doesn't derail the film for me, but it held me back from really loving what the cast was doing.
Even so, the film is handsomely made, and it does ask some solid questions that we should be asking about the process itself these days. The way we elect our Presidents is deeply broken, and "Ides Of March" suggests that the flaws are inherent, that people are the weak link, and that the sort of people who are attracted to this world are exactly the sort of people we should fear having in office. It may not connect all the dots, but "Ides Of March" should leave adult audiences plenty of fodder for great conversation after they see it.
"The Ides Of March" opens in theaters everywhere October 7, 2011.
News From Our Partners
- Sony Teases PlayStation 4 E3 Console Reveal in New Video George Takei as Every Character in 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Nintendo Promises Details on New 3D Mario, Smash Bros Before E3
- What to Watch Tonight: The Season Finales of Rectify and Hawaii Five-0 and the Series Premieres of The Goodwin Games and Motive Mad Men "The Crash" Review: Uppers Give You Wings! Hey TV.com, Should I Watch The Goodwin Games?
- The Telefile - Veep: The Episode's Best Insults The Telefile - Saturday Night Live: Straight Outta 8H The Telefile - Game of Thrones: Our Weekly Westeros Scorecard
- Box Office Guru Wrapup: Star Trek Softer Than Expected at #1 Weekly Ketchup: Will Smith to Star in Wild Bunch Remake? Critics Consensus: Star Trek Into Darkness is Certified Fresh
- Why Do I Own This?: A pint glass nicked from Forks, Washington, a.k.a. “Twilight, U.S.A.” Scenic Routes: A quiet scene from The Matrix demonstrates how to make exposition compelling Nerd Curious: Why the essential collection Bradbury Stories explains how to live forever
- 'Star Trek Into Darkness': What's Next For J.J. Abrams And The Cast? 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Spoiler Special: Burning Questions Answered 'Anchorman 2' Trailer Had Us At 'Hello': Watch Now!
- The Women TV Is Still Missing Jason Isaacs Reveals The One Co-Star He Won't Work With Again WATCH: La Toya's Tearful Break-Up Phone Call
- One Direction Thank Their Fans for 2013 Billboard Music Award Wins Drake + Jay-Z Working on New Music [Pic] Taylor Swift Gets Grossed Out When Selena Gomez + Justin Bieber Kiss Backstage at 2013 Billboard Awards [Pics]
You want to know what this summer sleeper's really like? Check this out.Monday, May 20, 2013
He's still holding the family togetherMonday, May 20, 2013
The director's next film promises to be packed with talentSunday, May 19, 2013
This is one you'll want to watch as soon as you've seen the movieFriday, May 17, 2013