There’s really no end to my admiration for George Clooney, a man that I have been accused of having “a big man-crush on” and I have never really denied it with any enthusiasm. He’s a very good actor in the right roles, he’s turned into an excellent director and he puts himself across as a very humourous and intelligent man. He also uses the medium of cinema to look at world events and political issues (watch the excellent Good Night, And Good Luck for one of his best works but also check out the excellent Syriana).
The Ides Of March is a straightforward political drama, and I say straightforward as in straightforward for the slippery, backstabbing, unpleasant world of political campaigning and scheming. While the movie isn’t the most complex thing that Clooney has been a part of, it’s one that will reward more observant and attentive viewers.
Ryan Gosling (AKA 2011 Star Of The Year, surely) plays Stephen Meyers, an advisor for presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney). Philip Seymour Hoffman is the older and more experienced advisor, Paul Zara, but it’s clear to everyone, friends and enemies, that Meyers is the one to watch and the man who may just help Morris get into power. Paul Giamatti plays an advisor for the opponent and he certainly has the young man in his sights, ready to get him onside by fair means or foul. Evan Rachel Wood plays an intern helping out with the campaign who catches the eye of Meyers, Marisa Tomei is journalist Ida Horowicz and a number of people hover around on the sidelines, waiting to get their foot further up the ladder (including an ambitious young man played by Max Minghella and an influential senator played by Jeffrey Wright). Unlike most of the people who have been playing the game a long time, Meyers has ideals and truly believes in the man that he’s helping rise to power. But ideals aren’t always all that helpful when people want you to fail, and Meyers has to adapt quickly as his eyes are opened to the reality of the plays being made around him.
It’s got a smart script, solid direction from Clooney and some enjoyable twists and turns throughout but the best asset that The Ides Of March has is the fantastic cast. I was genuinely excited as I saw each face appear and get some screentime. Gosling has been in a few movies this year and hasn’t disappointed yet, Clooney never disappoints me and Philip Seymour Hoffman was on great form. Evan Rachel Wood was also very good, Paul Giamatti and Marisa Tomei are two people I could watch in a movie about paint drying and the small roles for Max Minghella, Jeffrey Wright and Gregory Itzin were enlarged by the faultless performances.
Sadly, although I can easily praise all of the cast I can’t say that the whole thing comes together in a completely satisfying way. Yes, the script is smart but it has some dead wood here and there and then just fails to really catch fire towards the big finale (when you expect just . . . . . . . . . something a bit MORE). As the whole situation plays out it always feels more like an obvious and heavy-handed morality play than it does an actual movie, once the whole thing unfolds there’s a disappointing inevitability to the whole denouement. Though that could be my jaded worldview.
Still well worth watching, it’s just a shame that with such a premise and such a cast this movie doesn’t sit proudly along other serious cinematic outings featuring
Swoony . . . . I mean . . . . . George Clooney.
DIRECTOR: GEORGE CLOONEY
WRITER: GEORGE CLOONEY, GRANT HESLOV, BEAU WILLIMON (BASED ON THE PLAY “FARRAGUT NORTH” BY BEAU WILLIMON)
STARS: GEORGE CLOONEY, RYAN GOSLING, PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, EVAN RACHEL WOOD, PAUL GIAMATTI, JEFFREY WRIGHT, MAX MINGHELLA, GREGORY ITZIN
RUNTIME: 101 MINS APPROX