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The Ides of March

A 2011 movie directed by George Clooney.

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When Optimism Gives Way to Cynicism

  • Oct 14, 2011
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George Clooney – the co-writer, co-producer, and director of The Ides of March – cast himself in a supporting role as a Pennsylvania governor turned Democratic presidential candidate. As self-congratulatory as you may find this, I’ve actually seen the movie, and believe you me, no one else could have played this character. In politics, it’s not just about a candidate’s party platform; it’s also about charm and affability, the sense that the man or woman running for office is a nice, likeable person. Whether he’s in character or bringing attention to a worthwhile humanitarian cause, Clooney intrinsically possesses these qualities. I don’t know if he was born to be a politician, but he sure as hell was born to portray one in a movie. He gives one of the year’s most convincing, nuanced performances, one deserving of an Oscar nomination.
Adapted from Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North, The Ides of March is a political drama that admittedly gives us nothing new as far as plot and subject matter are concerned. But what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in performance and dialogue; only a handful of films this year have been so perfectly cast, so skillfully acted, and so well-worded. Both the play and the film are said to be loosely based on the 2004 Democratic primary campaign of Howard Dean, although I don’t think that matters a great deal. Willimon may have worked for Dean during the primary, but the story is fairly general, and I’d wager that it would be just as entertaining and insightful even if Dean had never existed. That being said, its themes of ethics, the lust for power, the need for revenge, and the professional and personal costs of getting ahead are both compelling and timely.

At the heart of the story is Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), the Junior Campaign Manager for Governor and presidential hopeful Mike Morris (Clooney). At just thirty but with numerous campaigns under his belt, Meyers is a dedicated man who clings to ideals and has not grown cynical of the political process. This seems to amuse his friend, Ida Horowitz (Marisa Tomei), a world-weary, scoop-hungry reporter for the New York Times. He truly believes in Morris, now in Ohio competing for the nomination against a senator from Arkansas named Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell). What begins as a straightforward process grows complicated when a rival manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), proposes to Meyers in secret that he abandon Morris and join the Pullman campaign. Meyers refuses, although that’s hardly the end of it; he neglects to mention the meeting to Morris’ Senior Campaign Manager, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who values loyalty above all else.
Further complications arise with the introduction of a twenty-year-old intern named Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), the daughter of the Democratic National Committee’s chairman. She and Meyers repeatedly flirt with one another, although Molly is well aware that, even within the confines of a campaign office, there’s a social hierarchy at work. People like Meyers are allowed to stay in luxurious hotel rooms, whereas people like Molly are can only hope for dumpy motels located miles away. At this particular stop on the campaign trail, she and the rest of the interns are forced to stay across the river in Kentucky. She admits, however, that her location has a better bar. It’s there that she and Meyers share a drink and bounce clever lines off of each other like skilled ping pong players.

The rest of the film thrives on secrecy and can only be described in vague hints. What it essentially boils down to is Meyers’ transition from innocence to maturity – or, more accurately, his transition from youthful optimism to disillusionment and eventually to complete cynicism. The film is undoubtedly a tragedy, for it reflects the unfortunate reality that the more we know, the more jaded we become. Simultaneously, it also casts a critical eye on us, the voting American public. We’ve prematurely ended the careers of numerous politicians, although rarely if ever has the reason been corrupt politics; almost always it has related to personal indiscretions that have no bearing on their ability to govern.
Gosling – who of late has appeared in films as diverse as Blue Valentine, Crazy, Stupid, Love., and Drive – is one of the few actors able to express a wide range of emotions without having to say anything. It all comes down to his eyes, which are expressive to say the least. The film’s final shot is of a slow zoom-in of his face, one that opens on a note of suspense and closes with sad detachment. We’ve seen what he has gone through, and we know what he has learned. It would be too much to say that The Ides of March is politically nihilistic, although it certainly perpetuates the notion that what we perceive and what actually is are completely different. I’m still young enough that I have faith in the political process. My sincerest hope is that I never lose that optimism, no matter how old I get.


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February 23, 2012
I honestly wanted to like this a lot more than I did. It was entertaining, and very well-acted, mind you; but I though the overall message and various targets were familiar and have since been over-used. Clooney does, however, show craft as a filmmaker; most definitely, and I'd never tell somebody to miss out on this one.
February 23, 2012
I agree that the film's formula was familiar, but the screenplay and performances were too good for me to give the film anything less than 3.5 stars. However, I think we're more in agreement on this film than it might first appear.
October 15, 2011
I missed this on its opening weekend; your review does make it sound really enticing....maybe I'll try to catch a show tomorrow....
October 15, 2011
Sadly, I also missed it on its opening weekend. Many found this film unimpressive, which baffles me. You should definitely see it.
More The Ides of March reviews
review by . October 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
It's not personal. It's just politics.
Mao Tse Tung said: Politics is war without bloodshed. War is politics with bloodshed. Ides of March proves the truth of this.      In George Clooney's more recent movies, he has become an acting chameleon moving with the deftness and surefootedness of a mountain goat, winning five Academy Award nominations and one Oscar for Syriana.      Up in the Air I considered good though overhyped, the thriller The American, brilliant but underhyped. A personal favorite. …
review by . February 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****    The problem at the core of "The Ides of March" is that George Clooney - serving as writer, director, and star - seems to believe that he's exposing truth and preaching to a whole new generation of politically active people. An avid Democrat himself; I'm surprisingly impressed by Clooney's ability to hold back on the Republican-bashing in his latest feature; whilst taking dead aim at the world of politics as a whole instead. "The Ides of March" is an anti-political …
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Strong and Familiar Strides
THE IDES OF MARCH Written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon Directed by George Clooney Starring Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood   Stephen Myers: Nothing bad happens when you’re doing the right thing. Governor Mike Morris: Is that your personal theory because I can poke holes in it.   George Clooney has been mulling making THE IDES OF MARCH for a few years now. When he first wanted to make it in 2008, he decided to …
review by . November 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Unpleasant political drama
A presidential candidate (George Clooney), his top aide (Ryan Gosling), and a young female staffer (Evan Rachel Wood) are the focus of this depressing political drama. Though utterly charming, the candidate is shown to have feet of clay, involved in a dangerous triangle with the other two.      On the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was assassinated; in this Ides of March, we see the death of political idealism. This is most definitely not a fun date movie or a chick flick; it exposes …
Quick Tip by . October 08, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Anyone looking for a little further insight into THE IDES OF MARCH, should check out my interview with actor, Max Minghella. In case you aren't sure who that is, he is in this movie, was in The Social Network and is also Anthony Minghella's son.    http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2011/1...iews-max-minghella.html    Enjoy!
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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