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2 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Ides of March, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Voter apathy."
3 stars

I wish Democrats would stop making movies about Democrats. They arenít doing themselves any favors.

In The Ides of March, George Clooney directs and co-adapts (from a play by Beau Willimon) a story about how politics turns everything to crud ó thereís no idealism possible. Even the Democratic candidates who talk a good, noble game have their secrets and shadows, which must be either protected or spun. And the contest in the movie isnít even between a Democrat and a Republican ó itís between two Democrats vying for nomination. The spin, the malicious use of the media, it all begins at home. These guys, ostensibly on the same side, have to hammer each other to determine whoís going to go on to hammer the other side. Politics is ugly at any level, and, as the movieís representative of the media (Marisa Tomei) puts it, whoever gets into the White House isnít going to change the average personís life for good or ill.

We see all this through the hooded eyes of Stephen Myers, a junior campaign manager, whoís slick, smart, and, in the person of Ryan Gosling, a little smug. Gosling has facility and intelligence, but here, spiritually, heís still chewing on his Drive toothpick. I donít feel much commitment to the character, and even less on Myersí part to the campaign of Governor Mike Morris (Clooney himself). Weíre told Myers has ďthe best media mind in the country,Ē but everything he does is Politics 101, and he lets himself get played. Almost everyone else does, too ó itís as if these people forgot en masse they were running to win. Myers has a drink with the oppositionís savvy campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) and somehow doesnít expect this to come back and bite him in the ass. He has a fling with barely-legal office intern Evan Rachel Wood and somehow doesnít expect that this wonít end well.

Once the real scandal kicks in, The Ides of March turns morose and obvious. This is Clooney in high civic Syriana mode, telling us that we should stay involved and informed even though the system is hopelessly compromised and thereís nothing anyone can do about it. Itís the perfect Democratic film for this kicked-around party these days: drab, resigned, impotent, flinching from imagined punches. The movie has no spark, no juiciness: Power may corrupt, but in this film it doesnít guarantee much fun. Gosling gets some teasing rhythms going with Tomei and Wood, but the only real warmth in the movie rests in the sleepy smile of Jennifer Ehle as the governorís wife. The campaign offices must be the quietest and dullest Iíve ever seen in a political film. Nobody feels carried away by their candidateís rhetoric or fired up by a challenge; nobody seems to love the job or even passionately hate it. This sad-sack group hopes to compete on a national-election level? The moviemaking is just as droopy; Clooney has his heart in the right place but usually not his camera.

A movie like this needs to be electric, even borderline farcical, like the 2008 made-for-HBO film Recount, or satirical, like the revered modern classic The Candidate or even Wag the Dog. Here, people mope in hotel rooms or on bumpy planes and eat bad food, and at times there are yawning pauses between lines ó nobody ever seems prepared for anything thatís said to them. These are people who by nature and necessity must talk fast, act fast, think fast. Think of James Carville. Here we have Ryan Gosling with his invisible toothpick brooding over an intern while the best weíve got ó Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman ó lean back into roles they could play in a deep coma, and may as well be.

In the end, the movie says that politics is serious adult business subject to the easily swayed wishes of an infantile, moralistic public; the stupidity of the electorate is taken for granted, though itís not voters who are the problem, itís non-voters, whose apathy and distrust will not be assuaged here, to put it mildly.

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originally posted: 10/10/11 10:15:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 68th Venice International Film Festival For more in the 68th Venice International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/02/12 HOW ABOUT... Ending showing candidate's wife knocking him down and dancing on his genitals. 4 stars
3/13/12 May Q. Horney Giamatti right on target;Hoffman over the top;Tomei her usual annoying;Clooney forgettable 4 stars
1/18/12 Monday Morning Great cast, acting, story & dialog; almost as good as an episode of "West Wing." 4 stars
1/14/12 Joanne Not ,"all that original" "...very good movie." Must be the acting. 4 stars
10/21/11 Carol Miles I wouldn't say this is all that original, still it is a very good movie. 4 stars
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  07-Oct-2011 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jan-2012


  DVD: 17-Jan-2012

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