THE IDES OF MARCH Review

There is a certain intrigue to politics in the movies that has never reached me in the real world. I have never been one to get caught up in a candidate's campaign and buy into everything they say, because at the end of the day my life will more than likely go on as it always has. They are the incarnation of ingenuine beings with the intent of being the most admirable. It is such a convoluted business to be in and there almost seems a breaking point that suggests we need a new way to go about this as those involved in running campaigns have become so good at what it really takes to win, that it doesn't matter what they stand for anymore, it only matters if they know the right people. I guess that is how this whole world works though and this isn't a paper on my thoughts on government (I am the last person who should be writing on such topics) it is instead a review of a movie based in this political arena. Luckily, it revolves around a young campaign manager who still holds on to the fact that ideals are what wins a man the position of president, and how quickly that idea is disproved.

Stephen (Ryan Gosling) and Molly (Evan Rachel Wood)
share a drink during a break from the campaign.
If you have seen the trailer, you get the gist of what goes down here. George Clooney (in a smaller part than you might expect) plays a Governor who is in the final days of an Ohio primary and facing difficult decisions that could either cost or win him the election. The real star here, Ryan Gosling, who, for the third time this year displays why he is finally getting the recognition he deserves plays an up and coming campaign manager who truly believes what his candidate stands for until he finds himself caught in the middle of scandal. The cast truly is a dream team with both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti playing opposing campaign managers and Marisa Tomei as a digging journalist too close to both parties while Jeffrey Wright as the governor willing to endorse either candidate for the right seat in the white house adds a rough edge to the drama. Evan Rachel Wood displays real charisma as a young intern working on Clooney's campaign that makes a few questionable decisions. Clooney, being the actor he is, manages all of these performers well and knows just how to use them in their most effective ways. Gosling is young and smart enough to earn the position we find him in yet lacks the experience to justify all of his decisions. Same with Hoffman, who is pitch perfect as an almost paranoid, and cynical minded manager who has been on too many campaigns to know the difference between business and reality.

George Clooney gets his President on.
Clooney, though able to demand gripping performances from each of his fellow thespians, is also able to tell the rather unimpressive story in an enthralling way. I was worried at first though, I won't say I wasn't. For the first half hour or so of the film as we learn what each players role is in this game, the story actually seems to be going nowhere, that this is more a documentary of the inside workings of a campaign rather than the nail biting drama the trailer promised. Things get even more testy when we find out the reason people begin stabbing each other in the back is for none other than the standard sex scandal. I mean, I get it, it certainly pulls the audience in and gets our ears to stand up. Clooney knows that, he understands what will grab a moviegoers attention and I almost want to believe he did this so that once he had us hooked he could really begin to dissect the corruption at hand. This is where the movie feels lackluster. Its too simple story. That may sound harsh as "The Ides of March" is actually a smart film, but for me, it never felt as if Clooney ever reached where he wanted to get to with this. I imagined it being more complex, even a movie I feared venturing into because I might not understand all the facets of what it was preaching. This was a film I almost expected to learn something from but instead it was a rather by the numbers story that is elevated greatly by the amount of fine performances going on here.

Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) congratulates Stephen
on his, shall we say, skills.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy the film, it is by no means a bad movie and it will probably get some Oscar talk, just not as much as I originally anticipated. It is a great showcase for all involved, especially Gosling who really does seem to prove with every role that he is just as much a pivotal figure in the acting game as Clooney himself. And here, he gives the common moviegoer a pass into the world that Clooney has documented. He is not necessarily a good person, he can be downright ruthless and yet we are still drawn to the magnetism he provides his characters. Clooney should really be commended for his restraint in not going all melodramatic with this, he shows restraints and in his focus on each performance he allows the story to become more about the people involved in these actions rather than just the actions alone. The choices these characters make still define who they are, but we are given clear pictures of who these people are and why they do what they do making the ho hum story appear much more provocative than it would have been in lesser hands.