The Ides of March
Directed by: George Clooney
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright
Running Time: 1 hr 41 mins
Release Date: October 7, 2011
PLOT: Based on a play by Beau Willimon, while assisting the campaign manager (Hoffman), Stephen (Gosling) gets a crash course in the ugly side of politics as he tries to get a presidential candidate (Clooney) into office.
WHO’S IT FOR? It’s a smart, political thriller. The first half feels like a glimpse into a campaign, the second half is more intense. Great acting across the board.
EXPECTATIONS: What’s not to love about the cast? Well, I guess I’m not a “big” fan of Wood or Tomei, but I don’t have anything against them either. My hunch was, this was going to be a “boys club” type movie anyway. Plus, with Clooney behind the camera, you expect something good.
Ryan Gosling as Stephen Myers: Are you enjoying “The Year of the Gosling”? I am. I can’t get enough. Stephen is the right-hand man to the campaign manager played by Hoffman. Stephen is slick, but still charming. He’s willing to be wrong, but only if it helps him the next time around. Then, when things start to spin out of control, and Stephen is blindsided, you see exactly what matters to him. It’s a great character study, even if you don’t always love the character. It’s funny how Stephen does seem to combine Gosling’s characters from Drive and Stupid, Crazy, Love.
George Clooney as Governor Mike Morris: If Bill Clinton and Barack Obama got together, had a couple of cocktails, then one thing led to another and ended up having a love child, that baby boy would be Governor Mike Morris. Sure, he’s a Democratic candidate and that’s an easy comparison, but the personal and professional choices made by Morris are a blend of both men. Did you guys forget that Clooney’s Oscar is for Best Supporting Actor (Syriana)? Me too. I’m not saying he’s going to win again, but Clooney has the perfect amount of political charisma that he will get plenty of votes.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Paul Zara and Paul Giamatti as Tom Duffy: Why are these two grouped together? Because they are the same. I’ve never gotten the two actors confused, but I’m now starting to think that they are the perfect pair to go against one another. I would have loved much, much more of these two guys … in fact, if Clooney is game, I want a sequel or prequel that is strictly focused on these two campaign managers. Both Hoffman and Giamatti are at their best at the expense of Gosling’s Stephen. Not only is that saying something great about these men, but also Gosling for being able to step out of the spotlight and allow them to shine.
Rest of Cast: Evan Rachel Wood plays Molly Stearns. She’s an intern who gets involved with Stephen and is there when the unraveling begins behind the scenes of Morris’ campaign. At first it seemed odd for Wood to play a 20-year-old, but she’s shockingly only 24 in real life. Feels like she’s been around for a long time. Molly throws herself at Stephen pretty quickly and it took me a while to decide if I actually liked her or not. Marisa Tomei plays a reporter and it seems she’s really having fun with the role, getting a couple of zingers at the expense of Stephen. Jeffrey Wright is Senator Thompson, a guy who doesn’t seem to deserve his position, but because there are so many layers to this film, it feels like Wright gets lost in the shuffle.
TALKING: The focus is mainly that of loyalty. To quote Hoffman, “It’s the only currency you can count on in politics.” Also, Stephen believes in Mike Morris as the President, truly believes in him. That’s his driving force. Cell phones also play an important role in the unfolding of the story, and I had that sense as soon as the new phones arrived. The secondary layer here might be Democrats getting balls in their campaign strategies. Seriously, they’re acting like Republicans. The campaign speeches are moving, and I love the concept of two years mandatory work (military or Peace Corp) and a free college education in return.
SIGHTS: Does Clooney look presidential? Of course. Even better than that, Giamatti and Hoffman look exactly like the people behind the people, pulling the strings. Things seem to be staged a little like a play, which I didn’t realize this film was based on. Clooney gets close-ups on Gosling and Wood, and if I could be overly critical, I wish he would have pulled it back a little bit.
SOUNDS: There is a patriotic air to the music. It’s very affective when it almost turns in to a marching band, or even a bugle horn. You could feel a military band presence to the musical score. “We’ll Meet Again” gets a moment while Hoffman, Tomei and Gosling hang out at a bar.
BEST SCENE: Paul tells Stephen the new plan and why it’s a new plan, and Stephen’s world is about to completely change. It’s a speech about loyalty and one of those key moments where you realize nobody is 100 percent right or wrong in this film.
ENDING: I didn’t feel good about things, but that’s not the point. I think the key phrase here would be, “Be careful what you wish for.”
QUESTIONS: Why is Senator Thompson so bad? The longer the film went on, the more I wondered what kind of man Mike Morris is. Did you feel like Molly’s actions were too extreme, too quickly? She seemed like a woman in control, that then had a very rapid downfall. There’s no chance Stephen ends up telling the full story when the film ends, right?
REWATCHABILITY: It’d be easy to watch again, and I would mainly focus on the off-the-charts acting from Hoffman, Giamatti and Gosling.
The phrase “the ides of March” has to do with a soothsayer telling Julius Caesar to be aware of a full moon in March. That full moon fell on March 15, the day Caesar died. So, does the fact that I don’t remember one full moon in The Ides of March ruin my experience? Not at all. While I feel the title doesn’t totally fit with the subject, this political thriller is crafted by some of the best in Hollywood.
It’s easy to make George Clooney look presidential, and George Clooney the director pulls it off with the ease you would expect after directing Good Night and Good Luck. The film moves along during the first half as a perfect “behind the scenes” to the ugly political games that are played to win a presidency. The second half gets extreme and offers at least one moment where my jaw dropped.
Politics are ugly. Clooney gets the best out of himself, and it’s the best group of men in a movie this year. Gosling continues to prove why this is The Year of the Gosling, and hopefully he’ll continue to make decisions to work with the current greats like Clooney, Hoffman and Giamatti.
The Ides of March is one of the better films you’ll see this year even if you won’t necessarily like what you’ll see from the people who are trying to run our country.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10