Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Ides of March

When you have the starring role and George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Marisa Tomei are playing supporting roles beside you, you know you’ve made it as an actor. Obviously Ryan Gosling has made it. This is the fourth Gosling film I have seen in the last few months and I haven’t seen the recent Crazy Stupid Love, so this has been quite the year for the young Canadian actor (I will review his All Good Things, which I watched on the weekend, later this week).

I knew Gosling was in The Idea of March, because his face was on the poster, but that’s exactly all I knew about this film (just the way I like it). So I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the supporting cast, all of whom did very well, as did Gosling. I was also surprised to see the film was written, produced and directed by Clooney. Well done, George.

The Ides of March is a tense political drama taking place over a few days of an Ohio democratic presidential primary. Gosling plays Stephen, the assistant to Paul, the campaign manager (Hoffman). Stephen, while not above playing dirty in typical campaign style, is an idealist who has found a candidate he truly believes in (Mike Morris, played by Clooney). And based on Morris’s speeches about ending dependence on oil and opposing the distribution of government money to the wealthy, among other things, I would believe in him too, especially if his attitude in person supported his political views.

At first Morris is indeed portrayed as a man of integrity, but then we discover that he has committed the one crime no candidate is permitted to commit. (Spoiler alert!) As Stephen says, a presidential candidate can lie, cheat, steal and probably kill, but he can’t mess with an intern. Morris’s indiscretion is just one of the things which cause Stephen to become quickly disillusioned with politics but much worse is about to befall the young man. How he deals with his trials is the main subject of the film and I won’t say more about that. I will say that The Ides of March does a good job of dealing with themes like integrity, trust and loyalty.

When the campaign gets out of control (i.e. falls apart), the film loses a bit on credibility, but I have no trouble believing that these kinds of things happen in politics all the time. On the whole, I found The Ides of March to be a solid, diverting while understated entertainment, worthy of ***+. I think George Clooney (not Mike Morris) would make a good president, but if the theme of this film is any indication, he’s probably too smart to get into the stupid demoralizing absurdity called politics. My mug is up.

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