Director George Clooney, also a co-screenwriter and pivotal character in the film, presents us with a grim little political drama with The Ides of March
. I say “little” because with its excellent cast, it should have felt bigger. As the title would suggest, the film deals with political intrigue and betrayal -- serious subjects for a serious film. Personally, I prefer tales of political shenanigans with a hearty dose of satire. Think Primary Colors
(1998), or my personal favorite Wag the Dog
(1997). But if you like your political tales on the weighty side, you’ll like this film.
Ryan Gosling plays the central character, Stephen Myers, a media-savvy, political whiz-kid, who’s second in command of the presidential campaign for Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). Myers idealistically perceives Morris as a candidate he can finally believe in. Gosling’s character works for campaign manager Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), and they’re up against a Senator Pullman in the Ohio primary. Pullman’s campaign manager is Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), and it’s worth the price of admission to see these two fine actors duke it out in their current -- one of an implied many -- political chess game. Both candidates and their staffs recognize the importance of gaining the support of Ohio senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) and his significant number of delegates, but they differ in how far they’re willing to go to get it. Marisa Tomei plays Ida Horowicz, a completely jaded reporter for the NY Times who doesn’t really care who wins as long as she gets the scoop.
Evan Rachel Woods shines in the role of Molly Stearns, a 20-year-old intern who happens to be the daughter of Democratic National Chairman Jack Stearns (Gregory Itzin). Molly has had her eye on Stephen for a while, and she finally gets around to making her move. Woods shows great range since her character is required to go from aggressively sexy and flirtatious to frightened and vulnerable in a nano-second. Gosling and Woods have definite chemistry, and her character’s sub-plot provides the turning point for the story line.
Ryan Gosling provides the audience with a perfect portrait of arrogant shrewdness. He’s as slick as the silk ties he wears, and everything about him makes you want to believe him. When he faces a game-changing situation, your feelings about the film will most likely rest on your opinion of how he reacts to manipulation and betrayal. Does he fold up like a two-dollar suitcase, let things lie, or go for the jugular? I’m not telling! Gosling provides his emotionally shallow character with enough depth to involve the audience emotionally in the outcome although I felt the final scene could have been stronger. That’s the director’s fault-- not Gosling’s.
I’ve often said that the only thing I’m more cynical about than true love is politics. This film did not change that point of view. However, if you like your films about politics dark and gritty, then this is your movie.