Ryan Gosling Stars in a Noirish Film Directed by George Clooney
Ryan Gosling gives a fine performance as the protagonist in The Ides of March (2011), and he is ably supported by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. This is a slick, well-paced movie directed by George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck), who also appears on camera in a key supporting role. Other actors in the film include Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood. Among the many strengths of the movie is the musical score by Alexandre Desplat.
The Ides of March is a contrived yarn that takes a look at the campaign of a Democratic presidential candidate (Clooney). For verisimilitude, political issues are mentioned, but the film isn't really about them — with minor tweaks, a screenwriter could turn the story into one about a Republican candidate. The movie is actually a potboiler depicting unpleasant stuff that goes on behind the scenes from the point of view of an assistant (Gosling) to the candidate's senior campaign manager. The film is an incredibly cynical account of a young man who goes from idealism to disillusionment to ruthlessness.
There's snappy dialogue in The Ides of March, not surprising since it's adapted from Beau Willimon's stage play Farragut North. Willimon worked on Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. Farragut North is the Metro stop near where most lobbyists and political consultants have offices in Washington, DC. The filmmakers changed the title to try to evoke the portentousness of the date in 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated. In the movie, March 15 is the date of an important election.
A Deeply Cynical View of the American Professional Politico
Ryan Gosling is in every scene in The Ides of March. He plays Stephen Meyers, a bright 30-year-old who is in Cincinnati working on the presidential campaign of Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). As the movie opens, all the main characters are immersed in preparations for the upcoming Ohio Democratic Primary.
The first half of the film is spent establishing the rough-and-tumble world Meyers must navigate, and there's lots of lively banter. The interesting characters are Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is Morris' campaign manager, and Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), who is the campaign manager for Morris' only serious opponent. Both Zara and Duffy are fascinatingly Machiavellian.
But there's also a good-looking 20-year-old intern, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), working on the Morris campaign, and one night she uses earthy language to let Meyers know of her desire to have sex with him. He tumbles into bed with her, and the film moves into the familiar territory of the melodrama. Soon Meyers does something risky that threatens to get him ignominiously fired from his job, and he carries out some devious maneuvers in an all-out effort to save his career as a professional politico.
The Ides of March is a plot-driven film that doesn't offer viewers any fresh insights. Still, it's a well-crafted, highly polished Hollywood diversion.
Director's Commentary and a Pair of Featurettes
If you liked The Ides of March and/or you're interested in George Clooney, you'll want to listen to the feature-length audio commentary on the DVD. Clooney directed, co-wrote and co-produced the film, as well as appearing in it in a supporting role. On the audio commentary, he is assisted by co-writer and co-producer Grant Heslov. They identify the filming locations, which were in Ohio and Michigan, and discuss many other production details. There are also some interesting asides, such as that greater Cincinnati is where Clooney spent many years of his life, Bart Giamatti (Paul Giamatti's father) was the guy who banned Cincinnati's Pete Rose from the Baseball Hall of Fame, Ryan Gosling used to be a mouseketeer, and the like.
The DVD contains two run-of-the-mill featurettes, each with a runtime of about six minutes. One featurette is "Believe: George Clooney," which is about Clooney as director, and in it he comments on being director, actor and producer all rolled into one: "Directing yourself is not fun ever. But it helps get us financed." The other featurette is "On the Campaign: The Cast of The Ides of March," which focuses on the principal actors in the film, about whom Clooney says, "Every actor we got was our first choice."
DVD Release Date: January 17, 2012
Feature Film Runtime: 1 hour 41 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Language