Sunday, October 9, 2011

Movie Review: The Ides of March

George Clooney and his writing/producing partner Grant Heslov are back with The Ides of March, an adaptation of the play Farragut North. For those who aren't familiar, Farragut North is a stop on the Red Line for the DC Metro. It lets you off near K Street where all of the political consulting firms are.

Clooney and Heslov renamed it The Ides of March, which is part of the line from Shakespeare's Julius Cesar. The emperor is told to "Beware the Ides of March" because that is when he will be assassinated by those closes to him.

Clooney grew up in Covington, Kentucky (a suburb of Cincinnati on the other side of the Ohio River), and The Ides of March is set right in Clooney's backyard in the week before the big Ohio primary. Although he is featured as Governor Mike Morris, who is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, the film's star is Ryan Gosling. As Morris's press secretary, Steven Myers, he's a 30-year old veteran, who's viewed as a bit of a wunderkind by his colleagues. He's jaded but still manages to be idealistic believing that Morris is the candidate, the only candidate, who can really make a difference. Sharing in his cynicism but not his optimism is his boss, Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) the head of media for Morris's rival, and Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) a political reporter.

Myers makes two mistakes. First, he takes a meeting, behind Zara's back, with Duffy who wants to recruit him for his team. He also starts an affair with a young intern (Evan Rachel Wood) that has some nasty repercussions. There is also a sizable subplot about both teams courting the delegates of one Ohio senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) because both sides know whoever takes Ohio, takes the nomination.

The actors in Ides are first-rate and they deliver first-rate performances. Watching Clooney, Gosling, Hoffman, and even in lesser roles, Giamatti, Wright, Tomei and Wood, was enjoyable. That alone was worth the price of admission.

At first, I had trouble believing that Myers could be so naive as to pin on his hopes on one guy. In fact, I found it hard to believe that he would have hopes at all. However, by the end of the film, I'd come to believe that it was this particular chain of events that killed whatever hope that Morris had initially ignited in him.

Ides of March is a political and cerebral thriller. The machinations and betrayals come more through words than actions so if you go into it expecting an action thriller, you will be disappointed. There is a lot of talking and posturing. It works for this film and I enjoyed it.

Also, I have a friend, K, who is a rabid conservative Republican. If you share K's views, do not, I repeat, do not see this movie. There are several speeches that reveal Morris's left-leaning Democrat tendencies (yes on gay marriage, free college after two years of public service, ...) if that is going to tick you off, don't go. The older couple seated in front of me left after one key speech and I think that's why ... but it was George Clooney so what did they really expect?

Anyway, politics aside, I enjoyed the Ides of March and if you like strong performances with a little politics thrown in on the side, I think you will too.

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