Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The Ides of March
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
Directed by: George Clooney
Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.
Release date: October 7, 2011
The Ides of March (based on Beau Willimon’s original play, Farragut North) stars Ryan Gosling as Stephen Myers, a young but successful campaign press secretary for Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), the Democratic Presidential hopeful. Although well versed in the political game, Stephen is still idealistic and bright eyed when it comes to Governor Morris and all that he appears to represent. That is until all goes wrong during the Ohio democratic primary, when Stephen takes a misstep regarding his career and simultaneously becomes entangled in a scandal that could lose Morris the race.
Stephen’s boss, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is a man who values loyalty above all else and is overly cautious about working with anyone who arises his conspirator suspicions. Stephen unfortunately gives Zara reason to doubt his allegiance when he unwisely meets with the opposing team’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). Duffy attempts to persuade Stephen to defect to the other side and, although Stephen remains steadfast to the Morris campaign, the damage has already been done. At the same time, Stephen discovers that Morris is not quite the man he believed him to be and that his trust in him may have been seriously misplaced. It turns out that nobody on the campaign was quite as loyal to Stephen as he was to them, but then again, he was well aware of the consequences of even the slightest error while working in the political arena. In Stephen’s own words, “If you make a mistake, you lose the right to play.”
Clooney does not appear as much as the rest of the cast, as most of the story had to do with those working behind the scenes. Even so, witnessing the character’s unwavering devotion to his idealistic beliefs (upheld in both private meetings and on the public stage), combined with Clooney’s soft strength and charismatic charm, and one cannot help but wish that the man up on the screen actually was running for President. (He had my vote— for the first hour, at least.)
Hoffman’s seasoned, therefore hardened and paranoid campaign manager possesses a contrasting mixture of both passion and exhaustion for the political sphere in which he has spent his life.
Gosling’s performance was top notch and, as usual, he stole the spotlight in every scene in which he appeared. Whether it be of a romantic nature (as with Evan Rachel Wood’s campaign intern, Molly Stearns), or as part of a mentor/buddy relationship (as was the case with Hoffman’s character), Gosling seems to possess a chemistry with any actor with which he shares a scene, making all of his onscreen relationships believable. Gosling’s character makes a swift transition from enthusiastic devotee to revenge-seeking adversary, but this rapid evolution seems credible if you look at the circumstances. Toward the end of the film, Stephen’s world changes at lightning speed. He learns that his faith was mislaid, he was rejected and thrown aside by those who he had chosen to stand by and protect, and he was used as a pawn in a game that he basically thought he was running. The combination of his wounded pride and a desperate need for self-preservation made the quick change of this character believable and Gosling’s convincing performance made it authentic.
The film possessed some of the finest players in Hollywood and it was wonderful to watch them work together. However, the arena in which they played was not big enough or smart enough to hold such great performances.
This movie contains a few plot twists, but most are turns that we have seen a hundred times before. The notion behind it all (that politics are dirty and that anyone in the political racket will, at some point, have to compromise their ideals to get ahead) is as cliché as the sex scandal that threatens to bring Clooney’s character down. The exchanges between the characters are exhilarating and you cannot wait to witness the intensity build and explode in a final showdown— unfortunately, that never seems to happen. On the contrary, the film loses steam toward the end and finishes a bit too abruptly. This quick transition from burning passion to an ending akin to a light simply dying out, exhibiting not even the tiniest hint of a spark before it diminishes, seems very anticlimactic. Then again, that might be precisely what the filmmakers intended to show— how the flame of long held, fiercely guarded principles could so easily and quietly be snuffed out when existing in such an extreme environment. Before the characters knew it, they had resolved themselves to becoming exactly what they had so adamantly opposed before.
The Final Wrap:
This movie was essentially carried by its actors who made lackluster scenes appear exhilarating. (You were so captivated by the verbal exchanges going on that it took a second after a scene was over to realize that nothing much had actually just happened.) Although there were many engaging moments, the film’s plot was cliché and it’s ending predictable. The story brings the demands on those in power closer to home, but in the end, it really does not present us with anything different or original.