Posted October 9, 2011 by whopperjaw in Flicks

Political Conspirators and Character Assassination: The Ides of March

Released right when Republication presidential candidates are gearing up for the primaries for the 2012 election, The Ides of March is certainly a relevant and timely film, even if it’s actually based the 2008 play Farragut North, which, in turn was based on Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Got all that?

Regardless of its tangled web of references, The Ides of March doesn’t establish itself as a political thriller of any real consequence. Yes, Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography is terrific, and the cast is superb, but this film, which George Clooney directed and co-wrote, doesn’t resonate despite its allegorical nature.

The plot centers on Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), a bright, young and good-looking junior campaign manager for Mike Morris (Clooney), a Pennsylvania seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. A staunch Morris supporter and hard worker, but he becomes a pawn in a game played by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the senior campaign manager for Morris’s rival, Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantel). Duffy tries to lure him over to the Pullman campaign. Stephen tells him he’s not interested, but when New York Times reporter (Marisa Tomei) gets wind of the deal, Morris’s senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) takes Stephen off the campaign and a thrilled Duffy reneges on his offer to take on the disgraced young staffer.

Quickly, we learn that ideaology didn’t drive the once devoted Stephen, who is eager to turn on his former employer and use information he has on the Senator and a 20-year-old intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) to get back in the game.

No one—from the reporter buddying up to her targets to get the scoop to the ethics-bound Senator with 20 year-old skeleton in the closet—is actually who they portray themselves to be and no one is blameless.  Early on in the film, Tomei’s character foreshadows the story that will unravel saying, “They’re all politicians . . . he will let you down sooner or later.” Turns out, nearly every player in this drama has the capacity to disappoint from a humanity standpoint.

Most of the performances are great. Clooney is terrific as the seemingly righteous governor, and Giamatti and Hoffman both make for very believable campaign managers. Gosling comes off a bit stiff, but that might just be a by-product of the fact that such talent surrounds him. Tomei is fine as the pesky reporter, but she really doesn’t have much of a role, and Wood was cast simply for her looks. Her performance is the one dud in the bunch.

While the film is certainly relevant – political scandals continue to happen on a regular basis – it doesn’t really dig deep enough. Perhaps the problem is the movie’s abrupt and somewhat unbelievable  end (a simple investigation of a suspicious death would have implicated others)  and the fact that the central character, Stephen, seems a bit one-dimensional.


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