The Ides Of March * * *
Director: George Clooney.
Screenplay: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Mantell.
The last time George Clooney stepped behind the camera to direct a political drama – with “Good Night And Good Luck” – he delivered a skilful and vivid dramatisation. This time, with a star-studded cast in the line-up, it looks like he just might do it again. Unfortunately, this doesn’t live up to expectations and ends up, quite a frustrating, indifferent attempt.
Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is an idealistic young man, helping Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) in his bid for the Presidency of the United States. However, he gets involved in a relationship with campaign volunteer Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and gets caught between rival campaign managers Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), which show him that candidate Morris isn’t as squeaky clean as he makes out. Before he knows it, Myers is involved in a dangerous game of sex, betrayal and ambition.
“The Ides of March” is a (commonly used by Shakespeare) reference to the slaying of Julias Caeser, who was stabbed to death by a group of conspirators, lead by friends, Brutus and Cassius. Using this term as it’s title, you would imagine a film about politics will have some double-crossing, on the level that met Caeser, but on this evidence… not quite enough. Right from the get-go we are thrust into a political campaign and the jargon that goes along with it. It takes a little time and patience to keep up with it’s constant flow of name dropping and rapid introduction of numerous characters and quite frankly, you’d be forgiven for finding it rather dull. Within the half-hour mark, it threatens to sink under it’s own weight. However, once a bit of corruption is thrown into the mix, it steps up a gear and delivers some great dramatic tension. Clooney is a very fine actor but he wisely takes a back seat in the acting stakes, allowing Gosling to be the front runner, with Hoffman and Giamatti biting at his ankles. It’s these three, bitterly fighting it out on the campaign, that bring the drama. When Clooney does show face again, it’s adds extra spice to an already boiling pot of corruption and double-dealing. But just when the film finds it’s feet, it draws to it’s conclusion. The performances are all strong by the aforementioned actors but the talented likes of Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright are wasted in thankless roles. Ultimately, the film masquerades as political intrigue but the message that comes across is mainly about the corruption of youth and idealism.
A brilliantly assembled cast are given some juicy roles and they play them well, but like politics itself, it can be too loaded at times and leaves you feeling dissatisfied.