Published on October 7th, 2011 | by dvdpinson0
The Ides of March Review
The title suggests deception and intrigue at Shakespearian proportions. As you probably know (and I like to think of those who take the time to read my reviews as being well read and- if that is a stretch- I think, considering the evidence, it’s safe to say that you can at least read which is worth something, isn’t it?) “The Ides of March” borrows its title from a famous line in “Jules Caesar” when a soothsayer tries to warn the great leader of his upcoming assassination at the hands of those he trusts. Here in George Clooney’s film (he co-starred, co-wrote and directed), we actually see the assassination of someone’s character and convictions at the hands of those he trusts set before a political background. But what could have been a weighty and important film makes some major missteps and careless revelations that let the entire thing down. Instead of a being a dense political thriller, “The Ides of March” might just be an excuse for Mr. Clooney to stand behind a podium and pretend to be a Presidential Hopeful with an Obama-esque “Hope” poster emblazoned behind him.
Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is a gifted and optimistic deputy campaign manager whose candidate, Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) is fully engaged in a heated political battle for the Ohio primary that is the key to the Democratic presidential nomination. Just 30 years old, Stephen is a wunderkind that draws the attention of the opposing candidate’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), who tries to entice the young gun to come work for him. Once Stephen’s boss Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) catches word of this offer, he begins to lose his trust in Stephen, causing deceit and doubt to reveal the true (primary) colors of all those around him.
There is more to the synopsis that must be left unsaid (I don’t want to spoil it) and is supposed to morph “The Ides of March” into a captivating political thriller. It was this revelation that makes the movie pedestrian and sends the proceedings off in the wrong direction. It’s hard to write about a movie when the main problem with the story is a “secret” but I will leave it alone.
The reason to see “The Ides of March” is the heavenly cast. Simple. Gosling is having “his year” that is going to plant him right up in the stratosphere with the “A-listers”. His journey in the film makes for good enough reason to see this movie. Is he Caesar, with his ideals and beliefs assassinated by those he trusts or is he Brutus, turning from loyal follower to someone willing to take down the king? Interesting and exciting stuff. Hoffman and Giamanti give dynamic, naturalistic performances that they are known for which ground the more outlandish aspects of the film. The ladies are not as well represented with Evan Rachel Wood trying to hard to keep up with all those around her with her 2 dimensional work as a young staffer and Marisa Tomei doing well with an all-to-brief turn as a cut-throat journalist.
The film looks beautiful and the stationary camera work by Phedon Papamichael gives the story a warranted ‘70’s feel that is reminiscent of “All the Presidents Men”. With a 101 minute running time, there is little fat and the pacing works fine.
Clooney is nearly peripheral here, the film belonging to Gosling and Hoffman. “The Ides of March” is sprinkled with tiny little speeches that seemingly present Clooney’s personal political views. There is even a scene where Governor Morris gets in a debate with a college student about gay marriage that is too preachy. Clooney makes the smart move of making all of his corrupt politicians Democrats. The film wouldn’t have worked if it had a bunch of “Hollywood Liberals” posing as Republicans stabbing each other in the back. Messages would have been lost.
The unnamed plot point is this story’s near fatal flaw and we go from engrossing to rolling the eyes. It’s worth seeing, just far from perfect.