The Ides of March – 2011
Directed by George Clooney
Starring Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Jennifer Ehle
Written by Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willmon, based on Farragut North by Beau Willmon
Back in the late 80’s, in the Washington primary for the Republicans, a bunch of Democrats pulled together votes and gave Pat Robertson the victory over George Bush 41. It was quite an embarrassment at the time, and eventually led to rule changes over several elections for the state. I am still not sure if they’ve found the right balance and I live in the state. Such is the early premise behind The Ides of March, which serves as a vehicle for Ryan Gosling, George Clooney and a bunch of actors to play political fantasy land.
The fantasy is built upon the stump speeches and debate statements which sound great on film, but do not hold weight in the real world. One of which is about Governor Morris’ (Clooney) statement about his agnosticism. So free and easy is his willingness to admit that he is not a believer and is nonplussed about it, it generates much applause in the captive audience. Even in today’s environment, where we’ve gone from Clinton saying he didn’t inhale to Obama taking 8×10’s smoking joints in a cool hat, Morris would be gone from the picture by South Carolina. This is Clooney’s playground, though, so we let him play. Sadly, some of the other toys he plays with here is the same old political stuff that plays back to Thomas Hardy’s time, and, yes, Julius Caesar’s.
Good thing he has a cadre of actors who know how to make the chicken salad. They spend much of their time trying to make the age-old themes feel real, new and almost vital. Gosling, playing Stephen Myers, is Morris’ deputy campaign manager and he seemingly knows what he is doing. The moment he is on top, early in the film, is the moment every tragic flaw begins to make its appearance. He has the feel of a young, intelligent man who is trying to hold on to what he’s got, as he starts to get more than he can handle.
The simple act of talking to the opposing team’s campaign manager (Giamatti in a plumb role)is enough to unwind everything. Adding to his stress, a youngish intern, Molly Stearns (Wood) throws herself on the tracks in front of Myers, who obliges to lend a hand. The confluence of events that follow are seemingly enough to decimate the person, while the damage to the campaign is enough to set things sideways.
“There’s no note,” says Morris to Myers in the kitchen of a restaurant late at night. The result of bad decisions allows for opportunities and for betrayal. All real allegiances are revealed to be worth the paper they are printed on. The point isn’t whether there is a note, of course. The point is that there is an opportunity for there to be a note.
The world’s 2nd oldest profession gets no new information here. Ides of March looks good, has good actors and some clever sayings. A true microcosm of the film, though, is the wasted talent of Jennifer Ehle. As the wife of Morris, she gets to hold him lovingly during one inconsequential scene and stare lovingly off from the side at others. Using her for this is a waste, tantamount to a $5,000,000 government paid couch for an office in the White House. Sure, it’ll do the job, but so would a folding chair.
(*** out of *****)