Thursday, October 06, 2011

REVIEW: The Ides of March

Once we all get past the excitement of playing “spot the Miami University location” or “Did I just see my friend?” one very important question remains about George Clooney’s locally shot political drama, “The Ides of March.”

Is it a good movie?

The answer, for the most part, is a strong ''yes.’’ It doesn’t pack quite the punch I hoped it would, given the local anticipation and the movie’s sterling pedigree. Although most of the media attention has centered around Clooney, who co-wrote, directed and co-stars in the movie, “The Ides of March” is not really Clooney’s showcase as an actor.

That distinction belongs more to Ryan Gosling, who plays Stephen Myers, the idealistic young press secretary for a Democratic presidential candidate, Mike Morris (Clooney). Myers is so enamored with Morris he becomes quite sure that Morris is absolutely the right man to run the country.

It soon becomes evident, however, that Morris’ private face is not as ideal as his public one. As Morris’ indiscretions surface, Myers becomes involved in a tug-of-war between Morris’ campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the cynical rival campaign manager, played by Paul Giamatti. Complicating matters even further is Myers’ dalliance with an alluring young intern (Evan Rachel Wood).

It all sounds like juicy grist for a story, and it is, to a point. But when the movie pulls the big reveal about Morris’ past, I was actually a little disappointed. The screenplay had done so well building up a level of intrigue that when it dropped the other shoe, I thought “That’s it? That’s the big, dark secret?” I won’t say what it is, but I will say it should come as no shock to anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in the 1990s.

I can’t say whether this is the fault of the source material, the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon, or of the screenplay by Clooney and Grant Heslov, but at a crucial moment it lets the wind out of the movie’s sails.

Then, strangely, the wind doubles back.  It’s almost as if Clooney and Heslov know the twist is a bit hackneyed. They smartly kid it, and that gets the drama flowing again.

“The Ides of March” also stands as further proof that if Clooney ever pulls a Clint Eastwood and decides to direct more than act, he’ll have a solid career ahead of him. His directing  is assured, smart and subtle, and Clooney does a very solid job of capturing a particular mood.

That’s because Clooney’s primary strength as a director is in drawing great performances out of his cast.
Everyone here is on top of his or her game, especially Gosling, who always does a fine job of suggesting tensions that boil beneath the surface, and Wood, who always makes a striking presence, even in smaller parts.

One of the best things about “The Ides of March” is that it will get will people thinking and talking after it’s over — hopefully about more than whether you spotted your friend or not.


1 comment:

David M. Allen M.D. said...

I really enjoyed it while I was watching it, but I did have this odd feeling that some of the things the characters did made little sense psychologically.

Dana Stevens from has a "spoiler" discussion on line where they tore apart the plot bit by bit. And they didn't even talk about the issue that I found most difficult from a psychological perspective: the Hoffman's character's level of paranoia.

But I still recommend the movie.