The Ides of March

The Screws of the Future President

         
 

07 October 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

High quotient intelligence on an oft-told political story. The Ides of March gives you the acting coup you would expect to get from a political fable put to screen with polish. George Clooney (“Up in the Air”) is Mike Morris, the governor running for President. Ryan Gosling (“Drive”) is the press secretary Stephen Meyers campaigning for Morris during the Ohio Democratic primary. Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Charlie Wilson’s War”) is the campaign manager and first aide to the governor. On the other side, Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”) is Tom Duffy, the campaign manager for the opposing Senator Pullman. The story centers around putting out the fires on a scandal before it blows up, and it throws an unnecessary mortality in there, too. Without that, the film could be a mean political satire that sticks to hot button issues. Instead it uses a mourning to segue to tragedy. This is Clooney’s film as a co-writer and director, but it is Gosling who dominates the screen time.

Gosling takes a precarious scene of an intern asking him out on a date and making it halfway plausible. Molly (Evan Rachel Wood, made to look like a 40’s screen siren), who is not even 21, puts lascivious suggestions into Stephen’s mind. Stephen is willing to play after work, as long as their naughty little trysts are kept a secret. But it seems that Molly knows a few dirty secrets about the future president in running.

Stephen does himself and his campaign team a wrong. He has met with the opponent, Tom Duffy, at an anonymous saloon to discuss switching sides. Stephen only goes out of curiosity and the ego-boost. But now, it might go in the papers. It’s something of a marginal infraction, in another context, but because this is politics it could cost him his staff position. It’s also an excuse for anyone to screw him over just by feeding info to the papers. Marisa Tomei, who looks like a cocktail waitress here, actually plays a reporter for the Times.

“Ides” gives us plenty of juicy scenes of PR spin doctoring, and of Clooney playing with presidential catchphrases on TV interview and debate platforms. Like we have all suspected, presidential candidates pick and exploit issues that fine tune to the public’s interest, and trading endorsements with fellow senators as favors. If the Ohio primaries are won, then the North Carolina primary can be won, too. It’s engrossing to listen to political strategists talk about the electorate vote as a pyramid to be scaled as connecting blocks.

Clooney is always the president in training without much internal divulgence, perhaps just once, but primarily he speaks in the fashion of oratory, command, or public address.  Hoffman and Giamatti each get one bravura scene to chew out their underling Gosling. As for Gosling, it seems to be yet another trick performance by the unconventional actor to take an enigmatic role and underact it to domains of minimalism. The final shot is a close up of him, as close as the camera can get to him, where he just emits a frozen stare into the camera. He is calculating something, it is uncertain, but without a doubt calculating saying something smarter than the president would say.

100 Minutes. Rated R.

POLITICAL DRAMA / ACTING PARADISE / FALL MOVIE

Film Cousins: “The Candidate” (1972); “City Hall” (1996); “Wag the Dog” (1997); “Primary Colors” (1998).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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