The Ides of March (2011)

Drama
Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling
An idealistic staffer for a new presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail.
While not exactly exposing revelatory truths, The Ides of March is supremely well-acted drama that moves at a measured, confident clip.
  • Sony Pictures Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 07 Oct 2011 Released:
  • 17 Jan 2012 DVD Release:
  • $41.0M Box office:

Trailer:

I'd suggest you see Ides, film buffs; although more of a triple than a home run, the cast is superlative and the direction very fine5/10
Stephen (Ryan Gosling) is a razor-sharp, rising star political media consultant. Presently, he is working on Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris' (George Clooney) campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Steve-o has only one man above him, overall campaign manager Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The two consult each other daily. The governor has a single chief competitor, an Arkansas senator with his own astute adviser, Tom (Paul Giamatti). At the moment, the Ohio primary is looming and the staff is working out of Cincinnati. One of the governor's lower-level workers is beautiful Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), the daughter of the present head of the National Democratic Party. Only 20, she is just learning the ropes. One day, she makes a pass at Stephen and he responds positively. But, he makes it clear to her that politics is his passion and, especially, Mike Morris, his idol. Indeed, Morris is handsome, smart, and appears to speak sincerely and clearly to potential voters. Yet, very soon after their first encounter, Molly drops a bombshell on Stephen. It is a stunning piece of news, one that could knock the earth off its axis. Also, amazingly, Tom has been courting Stephen to "switch sides" while a respected, determined journalist, Ida (Marisa Tomei) is eager for any and all campaign stories. A cauldron of conflicting genuine and perceived realities is brewing. What will be the result? This is a fine film, based on a stage play, and directed by Mr. Clooney. While the story is more predictable in nature, the script has some great lines and Clooney's direction is quite, quite admirable. This is particularly true of the performances he draws from the cast, with Gosling, Hoffman, Giamatti, Tomei, Clooney himself, and especially Wood giving great turns. All the film's amenities, from sets, costumes, and camera work, are also nice. If you are a discriminating film buff, who loves quality flicks with ample discussion points, then I'd suggest you see Ides at your earliest convenience.
No heroes, no villains, just real human beings - and what could be scarier?9/10
Corruption is such a nasty word. It is universally steeped in negative connotation, and is a term applied theoretically to a selfish, unjust misuse of power. Yet, realistically, this evil becomes hard to determine, and many attempts at justification can be made using alternate terms, such as "motivated" or "single-minded". Many of the best social dramas have explored this ambiguous area: in House of Sand and Fog (2003) an unfairly biased policeman was put to work, for once, for the supposed sympathetic protagonist, but we still didn't find it excusable; more recently, in the fiercely intense Contagion, the top doctor leaked confidential information in order to place his wife's chances of survival above the others – in this case, we can understand his position, but the injustice at hand here is still undeniable.

It is very unfortunate in society that the places where corruption is most prevalent are those in which justice and citizenship is supposed to be the absolute goal. Contagion and other similar films expose this in the medical industry, films like L.A Confidential (1997) in the police force, and now George Clooney, as both writer and director, has brought us another razor-sharp political drama that reveals how cutthroat and sinister working in the government can be, even if creating a "free world" is purportedly the overall goal.

Ryan Gosling portrays another robust yet ultimately inadequate young businessman attempting to excel in a challenging line of work. In Fracture (2007) it was the legal system, where, again, his character, Willy Beachum, faced this same temptation when his partners urged him to falsify evidence in order to put away a fiend that they knew to be guilty, yet could find no proof against. Willy resisted admirably, but Stephen Meyers, his more competent yet far less righteous character in The Ides of March, has rather weak moral resolve. He is the talented and favoured staffer of presidential candidate Governor Mike Morris (Clooney), a man whose political philosophies he genuinely supports, and is very anxious to see become president. However, Morris is a man who sticks firmly to his principles and is unwilling to make a strategic compromise. It is an insistence that frustrates Stephen, and indeed his entire team as they see guaranteed victory is within their grasp if he only concedes to endorse the slightly disagreeable Senator Thompson (although neither Jeffrey Wright nor Clooney exactly make it clear what it is that Morris dislikes about him). It is a case of breaking a few eggs to make a good cake, and as Morris continues refusing to do so, pressures mount, the opposition begins to gain the upper hand, and a highly riveting series of complications arises.

Audiences will be happy to hear that they will not have to sit through a ridiculous amount of dry, technical passages of dialogue, sift through needlessly enigmatic storytelling methods and poke and prod their way through murky themes in order to find value in the film. The broader ideas are not all it has to offer, but lie over the top of the solid story foundations to be properly examined upon the reflection that takes place after viewing, as they should. This piece also works as a slickly entertaining, enthralling crime thriller. For while the intricate world of politics can arguably be likened to a game of chess, as it is in the film, the pieces are not stone figures, they are real people whose entire lives become ruined when they are captured by the opposing side/ Seeing as beyond the point of the Senator Thompson dilemma, the plot involves a string of juicy surprises, I shouldn't really reveal much more. All I will say is that Paul Giamati, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei all give exceptional performances as the key figures involved, and that each of their characters, and at one stage or another, harbours a deadly secret.

Clooney's direction is remarkably apt, particularly in a wordless scene in which Hoffman's character is given aggravating news from Morris inside his car, and we become cheeky onlookers from the outside, not even seeing their faces. He has also done well adapting beau Willimon's play Farrugat North with the help of Oscar-nominated screenplay writer Grant Henslov (Good Night, and Good Luck) and the playwright himself. His performance as Morris is fine work also, but, for the common audience at least, the film really belongs to Gosling, who proves once again that he is more than just an exceptionally handsome teen idol, but the most convincing and versatile young actor since Johnny Depp, with Max Minghella (The Social Network) and Jennifer Ehle topping things off beautifully as part of the supporting cast.
Solid, realistic political melodrama - not a thriller8/10
The Ides of March isn't a story just about the back-alley dealings of those seeking to gain power; it's a morality tale of how much one must wrestle between doing things because he feels they are the right thing to do and doing things that will serve themselves better in the long run. It is a political melodrama, but it just as easily have been written about business and high finance. It's highly cynical, with its points driven home by a terrific cast, and yet it manages not to be heavy handed or preachy. Indeed, there aren't really any strictly good or bad guys in this movie.

Ryan Gosling stars as Steven Myers, a top aide to Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), who is running for president; currently at stake is the battleground state of Ohio. If Morris can gain Ohio's delegates, he's pretty much assured to get the Democratic nomination, and in the film it's noted that the Republicans have a weak field themselves (at best). All of this means, of course, that as Ohio goes, so goes the presidency, so there's plenty riding on this one primary.

Morris' campaign manager is Paul Zara, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, a veteran of many cutthroat campaigns. And although Zara has the experience, Morris often turns to his young(ish) aide Steven to gain a less-jaded, more-truthful perspective. (Of course, by doing so, Morris is simply trying to hear from someone who may not be thinking four years or fewer down the road at his next job.) Like most staffers, Steven believes in Morris; he thinks that if the man is elected president, good things will happen. He is the prototypical idealistic aide; doing the right thing will win out over all, he believes. He's not completely naive to backdoor politics, but his organization, his analysis, his acumen, and his spirit are what endear Morris to him.

Even though Steven is not a Mr. Perfect, a self-righteous do-gooder, he's savvy; he knows which buttons to push. He learns, though, that his chief obstacle to success is in recognizing whom is trustworthy, and just because one is friends with another doesn't mean that either owes the other much when it comes to the game of politics. For example, simply feeding the press (in the person of Marisa Tomei) the occasional tidbit doesn't mean that the media will be an extended PR arm for Morris.

Somewhere along the line, Steven reaches a breaking point, a place at which loyalty isn't the most important thing on his plate. This point comes as a result of two pretty bad decisions, one that he knows is a bad idea right away and another that seems a little more innocent – but then Steven has underestimated how petty, parochial, and vindictive those in the business can be. It's all about one's level of paranoia. You have to have some in order to foresee problems, but too much of it will hollow out your soul in a jiffy.

Clooney, who also directed, looks and sounds presidential, but he's not the focus of the movie; as with his brilliant Good Night, and Good Luck, he's a powerful supporting character. Things don't revolve around Mike Morris as they do around Steven Myers, and that's one reason the movie works – our focus is on the morality battle, and it's presumed that as a sitting governor, that battle's long been over for Morris.

The hand-picked cast is superb. Not only do we get Clooney, Hoffman, Tomei, and Gosling, we also get Paul Giamatti as the governor's opponent's campaign manager. Each one seems to steal scenes, even ones they share. Even Evan Rachel Wood, as a new intern in Morris' camp, turns in a splendid performance.

It's clear that The Ides of March won't be for everyone. It is, as I said, cynical – highly so. It won't leave you hopeful about, well, anything. It gives you no one for whom to really cheer and yet no one for whom to really despise. It offers realism in lieu of hope, and its goal of trying to explain the motivations of those who get involved in these campaigns is reached. It's an effective, gripping melodrama.
Et tu, Brute7/10
Greetings again from the darkness. Political thrillers can be so juicy and filled with "gotcha" moments and "oh how could he/she" scenes. Inevitably, most come down to an "I believed in you" showdown and reckoning. This latest one based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, gives George Clooney an opportunity to play out his political aspirations without opening himself to the real thing.

Clooney also directs and the smartest move he made was assembling an ensemble cast of some of the best actors working today. Clooney plays Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris, who is one of two still-standing Democratic Presidential contenders on the verge of the Ohio primary. His Campaign Manager is grizzled campaign veteran Paul, played with staunch principals and black and white rule book by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Their talented and idealistic Press Secretary Stephen is played by Ryan Gosling. Their opponent's manager Tom Duffy is played by Paul Giamatti. Duffy oozes cynicism and seems to have lost the rule book that Paul holds so dearly.

The film begins with the set-up so we get a feel for just how strong or weak of character each of these men are. Morris (Clooney) is obviously an Obama-type idealist who claims his religion is the US Consitution. He says this while gently poking fun at his opponent's Christian beliefs. We see just how talented Stephen (Gosling) character is at handling the words that Clooney speaks and we see Paul (PSH) in full back room politico maneuvering.

The film has two huge points where the mood swings. The first is a contrived, definite no-no meeting between the ambitious Stephen and the shrewd Duffy. The second is a sequence between Stephen and a 20 year old campaign intern named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who also happens to be the daughter of the Chairman of the DNC. These two events turn the film from political thriller to melodramatic Hollywood fare. That doesn't make it less of a movie, it's just different than it began.

Cat and mouse games ensue and we see just who is the master manipulator amongst a group of professionals. This is one of those films where the individual pieces are actually more interesting than the whole pie. There are two really excellent exchanges between Gosling and Hoffman. Ms. Wood steals her scenes with ease. Jeffrey Wright nails his brief time as a desperate Senator negotiating the best deal possible. Giamatti's last scene with Gosling is a work of art. The only thing missing is a confrontation between Giamatti and Hoffman. THAT alone would be worth the price of admission.

You might be surprised that Clooney actually minimizes the political meanderings, though he does get in a few jabs at the Republicans. This is more character drama ... how far can your ideals and morals carry you. What is your breaking point? Where is the line between realist and idealist? Is it betrayal if you act for the right reason? The final shot of film is superb. Et tu, Brute.
The games people play to get ahead, not necessarily in politics, but within themselves8/10
George Clooney is running for President. Well, I mean, in "The Ides of March," as Governor Mike Morris, he's running for the Democratic Presidential nomination. He's the good guy and his opponent is the bad guy. Because that's how it is supposed to be, right? The opponent's campaign manager is played by the ever-shady Paul Giamatti, while Morris' campaign is championed by the young, handsome idealistic Stephen (Ryan Gosling).

This is about politics, the games people play to get ahead, and the types of people who get played—that's the interesting part. The refreshing part, is that this isn't about election night and who is going to win and who is going to lose. A few poll numbers are rattled off, but it's mostly about what is going to happen to our heroes (or anti-heroes) and what are they going to do in response. When you look like Clooney and Gosling, it's hard not to be the hero, but remember, this is politics and nobody is really a hero in that mess.

People make mistakes. I enjoyed following Stephen as he struggled internally with his path forward. He believes in the good of the Governor. He's smart and passionate and makes a good campaign manager. His mistakes seem minor and understandable. The problem is, he's 30. He's at the in-between age, where he's half young-college-student-ready-to-take-over-the-world and half experienced-cynic. Those are two very combative halves and when they come at odds within him, the character takes some shocking and drastic turns.

The few references to actual political gaffes are obvious and just done for comic relief. All the clever lines are stolen by Giamatti, who, I am predicting, will come away with the only acting nomination for the film. Although, the brilliant character work – that's done by everybody, and is what makes "The Ides of March" so intriguing.