Nothing flies over my head faster than politics. I feel like as an American, and self-righteous, douchebag pseudo-intellectual, I should keep in touch with politics, but alas, every time I hear political news or the like, everything just hazes out of my mind, and I have no idea what the hell I just watched/read/listened to. As such, whenever a movie about politics comes out, I’m able to understand all the political talk of GOPs and campaigns and all that stuff, much better, simply because I just understand things better through the cinematic language.
So, most critics have been saying that The Ides of March doesn’t reveal any revelatory about politics, and even for me, the film’s truths weren’t exactly anything I didn’t already know. George Clooney’s latest directorial effort suggests that running a political campaign comes at the cost of losing everything else that you have, such as your moral standards, your friends, your passions, etc. However, the fact that nothing too new is brought to light shouldn’t be an insult to the film, because The Ides of March is a riveting motion picture.
The Ides of March opens with Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling)–not to be confused with Stephenie Meyer, author of the detestable Twilight books–and his buddy Paul (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) running the political campaign for an Ohio governor named Mike Morris (George Clooney). Things are running along smoothly enough when Meyers gets a phone call from a rival campaign manager named Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) to meet at a bar for a special proposition. Without spoiling anything, the meeting has much larger negative repercussions than Meyers could have ever imagined.
The Ides of March would’ve been insufferable without the tension brought by its amazing cast. While I’ve mentioned Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti, the film also boasts Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood, who is ridiculously hot in the film. Even though some of them have small, perhaps even thankless roles, every single member of the cast brings their A-game.
At this point, Ryan Gosling has completely won me over. He was able to make The Notebook watchable, he captivated in Half Nelson, he was extremely underrated in last year’s Blue Valentine, and this year, he’s had three films, and each of them have had stellar performance from him. He was hilarious in Crazy, Stupid, Love, menacing and mysterious in Drive, and here in The Ides of March he has the difficult task of portraying the character of Stephen Meyers, who goes through significant changes throughout the course of the film, and making it all believable and intense.
Hoffman plays Paul sympathetically especially since he gets screwed over by the end of the film, Paul Giamatti is wonderfully sleazy as the rival Tom Duffy, and while Marisa Tomei’s role isn’t too big, even she brings dimension to her role.
George Clooney shows us after his disappointing Leatherheads that he is still able to carry over his acting chops to the director’s chair wonderfully. He directs the film at a calm pace that has just enough tension bubbling underneath the surface to keep you intrigued, but doesn’t go too overboard that the film becomes unrealistic. He shows a lot of restraint for a subject that could’ve easily been handled in an annoyingly preachy way.
I’m not the biggest expert on politics, but I do appreciate the film’s viewpoint of it: That politics is a dark game of deceit, lies, corruption, cheats, and scandal. From an outsider’s point of view, the film still maintains its realism and feels authentic, though I’d like to know what a real expert thinks about the film. The completely unromanticized view of politics is something that isn’t new, but it serves the story well and still delivers its message thoughtfully and poignantly.
There really isn’t too much to say about the film, so forgive me if this review is shorter than most. Despite the complex plot of political intrigue and double-crossing, it’s a film that’s made with simplicity. It doesn’t take sides at Republican or Democrat (though all of the main characters are Democrats) and just matter-of-fact-ly shows us that no matter what side you’re on, the people you depend on to run your country have a dark side to them.
Final Verdict: Despite the film’s somewhat unoriginal message, The Ides of March glides in the strength of its stellar cast and the restrained direction of George Clooney. Even if you aren’t a political expert, you’ll still enjoy the movie as an intense, dialogue-driven thriller.
That is all. See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make love to my Ryan Gosling love-pillow. You didn’t hear that from me…