Oct 2011 07

I’ve had many discussions lately about politicians; the majority of the discussions have been about their worst attributes.  You know what I’m talking about? Most people when talking about politicians rarely have anything nice to say. They are the vermin of our system that are despised because of their wealth, power, and willingness to sell out their constituents for a steady flow of cash. So, what happens when you truly believe in a candidate, only to see him fall to scandal?

That is the conundrum that faces Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), a media strategist who absolutely believes that his candidate, Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney),  is the only answer to the country’s problems.  Meyers who is the brightest media mind in the country is on the fast track to the top, the only thing that stands in the way of his candidate and the Democratic Presidential nomination is the state of Ohio, a state which they lead by almost eight points in the polls. However, when new information comes to light, Meyers must make a string of decisions that could effect not only his candidate’s Presidential bid, but Meyers own future as well.

Ides of March is an immaculately constructed political thriller. Every character has an agenda, and much of it is not revealed til much later in the film. Just like in real life politics, many people are not as they seem. Every one is playing each other like chess pieces, but none of them are playing on the same board.  One of the hardest things to get past in the film is that none of the characters are “good” people. Not even the protagonist, Meyers, is above using political leverage to find ways to screw someone else.  His idealism in the early portions of the film quickly decomposes as everyone around him disappoints him. It’s a very hard thing to understand that sometimes to win the game, you have to use the same tactics as everyone else.

I sat through much of this film, and thought how much many conservatives will hate this film. Despite the fact that it doesn’t paint either party in a very healthy light, there are plenty of more liberal talking points, and many potshots are taken at the Republican party in passing. However, George Clooney, who directed the feature, doesn’t shy away from the fact that both sides play dirty. Sure, the film might even insunuiate at points that Democrats are the superior party, but Clooney makes it obvious that neither side is blameless. The main purpose of the film doesn’t appear to be to push a political agenda, but nonetheless many of Clooney’s character’s political talking points will be discussed by many. The idea is not the politics presented to the people, but the backroom deals, the scandal cover ups, and the intense pressure during a political campaign.

Ryan Gosling continues to impress as a leading man. He plays Meyers as a 30-year-old who projects intelligence, charisma, and a bit of cockiness. Gosling has rightly earned his leading man status, and it is a mantle I would guess he will continue to hold for another couple of decades.  Gosling has now been in his third solid film of the year, and shows no signs of slowing down his meteoric rise.  He could easily be just another heartthrob who spends his time making millions of dollars in romantic comedies, but instead has picked choice roles which will garner him more accolades than money (although, I’m sure he’ll still be making plenty of that as well).

Clooney once again proves that his touch behind the camera is as good as his acting in front of it. Despite the fact that there are a few pacing issues with the film, it is superbly crafted.  The tone of the film is just right, and the build at the end is superb.  Clooney has a very good chance to be one of the best actors turned directors, and with the casts he assembles for his films, it will be hard for him to fail.

Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, both shine as head of campaigns on the two Democratic frontrunners. Marissa Tomei makes an appearance, but isn’t on screen enough to have too much of an opinion about. Evan Rachel Wood continues to mature as an actor, but her maturity on screen almost makes it hard to believe her character, a 20-year-old intern who is the daughter of the DNC chairman. Regardless, her chemistry with Gosling is palpable, and helps foster the drama that unfolds in the second act of the film.

I’ll be honest, if you aren’t into politics and slow-building dramas, then this might not be the film for you. The film has a very strong message if you read into it, and while it may not be a true story, it certainly has the sense of feeling that it is something occurs often. If nothing else, go to take a look to see some insight into political motivations on a campaign trail.

Grade: A-


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