- Running time:
- 100 minutes
- Ryan Gosling -
- Stephen Myers
- George Clooney -
- Gov. Mike Morris
- Philip Seymour Hoffman -
- Paul Zara
- Paul Giamatti -
- Tom Duffy
- Marisa Tomei -
- Ida Horowicz
Hotshot campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) believes smooth talking Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) can make a real difference if he earns the Democratic Party’s nomination for President. But Stephen’s idealism is put to the test by a series of revelations and betrayals involving his boss Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), rival campaign head Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), seductive intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and nosy journalist Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei).
The buzz: Clooney’s fourth film as a director is based on Beau Willimon’s play “Farragut North,” adapted for the screen by the playwright, Clooney and his writing-producing partner Grant Heslov. A splashy premiere on opening night of the recent Venice Film Festival launched the movie directly into awards season, with high expectations elevated by the all-star cast. Of the key players, Wood is the only one without an Oscar nomination (yet) and Clooney, Hoffman and Tomei are all Oscar winners.
The verdict: As slick as a campaign ad, and ultimately about as deep, “Ides of March” confuses melodrama for moral drama in service of a young man’s overly obvious journey from idealism to cynicism. As Ida warns Stephen early on about his candidate and politicians in general: “He will let you down, sooner or later.” And the 90 minutes that follow are all about Stephen’s slow realization of this “truth.” Clooney, Heslov and Willimon (who worked on Howard Dean’s failed 2004 presidential campaign) make some odd changes in opening up the source material for the screen. Beyond the catchier Shakespearean title, the candidate was never seen on stage and Molly’s arc as Stephen’s secret-keeping love interest was substantially less histrionic. Those alterations will hardly matter to the general audience they’re intended to appease, except for the resulting sense that the film isn’t getting under the skin of its dramatically flattened characters. In place of memorable personalities, “Ides” serves up talking points: the destructive force of a corrupt political system, the dangers of holding our leaders to impossibly high standards, the wide gap that can exist between charismatic rhetoric and genuine integrity. But the blunt impact of the dialogue and plot machinations leaves no room to explore these ideas in subtle or provocative ways. The relative disappointment of “Ides” comes with a huge caveat: Clooney remains serious about serious filmmaking. Even when he misses the substantive punch of his ’70s-era influences, he’s still aiming high and drawing strong work from his actors (Giamatti’s fleeting, forceful turn is a standout among the strong ensemble) and creative collaborators. So it’s too bad that like the politician at its center, “Ides” is an imitation of greatness, not the real deal.
Did you know? “Ides of March” marked new territory for Clooney as a director: following the period settings of “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Leatherheads,” this is the first time he helmed a film set in present day.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
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