“The Ides of March” Movie Review

    When I concluded watching George Clooney’s new political thriller, “The Ides of March”, the first thing that came to my mind was: Tell me something I don’t know.  The film serves as a grand stand for Clooney and his ideals as he is involved as a lead actor, writer, producer, and director.  No doubt, what has translated to the screen has Clooney’s fingerprints all over it.  If this were a homicide scene, it would take weeks to collect all of the evidence.  Clooney’s political beliefs aside, the question one must ask of Ides of March is whether or not Clooney has created an engaging and thought provoking entertainment.

     Ryan Gosling stars as Stephen Myers, a high level campaign staffer for George Clooney’s Governor Mike Morris who in the middle of a closely fought Presidential Primary in the state of Ohio.  The majority of the film’s plot takes place in the realm of the campaign headquarters for Morris, run by Stephen, and the headquarters for his opponent, run by Paul Giamatti’s Tom Duffy.  What you can expect from the plot won’t surprise you as it didn’t surprise me.  These guys are crooked, top to bottom.  It is a world of back door deals and cover ups all in an effort to make their candidate look as pristine as possible to the voting public.  In fact, this plot is so simple minded that it harks back to the Lewinski / Clinton scandal and is really nothing more.  I suppose I expected the stakes to be more about life and death, but the result of any of these characters being caught only means they’re done politically.  They won’t go to jail or prison.  They do nothing illegal.  It’s even said that Stephen will be able to go to work for a consulting firm and make $750,000 a year if Morris were to lose.  Rough life ahead of him indeed.

     Though there’s not much to the story, I’d be wrong not to talk about the stellar cast Clooney has assembled here.  In fact, including Clooney, there are five actors in the film which I consider to be some of the best working today.  Ryan Gosling is flourishing to say the least.  He reminds me in some ways as a young Robert DeNiro.  Many remember him in “The Notebook”, but his true breakout role was in last year’s “Blue Valentine” and ever since he hasn’t missed.  Here he is equally as good as he was in both this summer’s “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and last month’s “Drive.”  His range and ability to play a multitude of characters will serve him well in the future.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and Marisa Tomei are all given their moments to shine and work well with the material.

     As a director, Clooney appears to have the ability to create conflict and tension by establishing mood and using the proper setting.  Unfortunately, he isn’t working with a story most people will relate to or really care about.  He certainly gives himself scenes on the stump where he can unload his political rhetoric on the paying audience, but whether you agree with him or not, it won’t matter to you if he falls.  In the end, you have a story about a guy who within a few days time goes from naive to a political shark and that’s it.  If that’s compelling to you than The Ides of March” may do for you what it didn’t  do for me.  When it comes to these types of dramas, I typically compare them to such classics as “All the President’s Men” or even “JFK.”  Films where there was true consequence to those involved. Perhaps that’s what is missing in the real world as well.  GRADE: C