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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.
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.
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 playedthat'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.
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.
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.
Ryan Gosling's at his best in dramatic roles and there's no exception here. As things unravel - that happens quickly thanks to the intense plot - Gosling decides that his ambitions are so important that he'll be willing willing to lose his soul. George Clooney has a very strong appeal, he's very convincing, his acting being almost perfect. "Ides of March" has very few flaws, the twists in the plot are not predictable and overall doesn't have any problems connecting with the viewers. Eventually, though there's no character to empathize with, the audience has the impression of a notable film noir, challenging us to come to terms with what politics is nowadays. I've seen intelligent filmmaking and a provocative moral fable.
You came here from the trailers and the clever poster campaign? Or
maybe you came here because you love Clooney and the idea of him doing
a political film appeals to you because you agree with much of what he
puts his name behind? Or maybe you just decided to watch on a whim?
Well for me it was the first two that put it in my mind but the third
that saw me pick this from the queue recently. The publicity leave you
in little doubt that this is a smart political movie while the names
involved all point to something that is worth your time, expensive and
very professionally put together. In terms of these latter qualities
the film does deliver but it is just a shame that it is not as good as
it looks in regards the former.
Let's deal with the superficial first. The film looks great and Clooney deserves credit for the job he has done here as it has a real sheen to it with really well designed shots and a real richness to the look (credit to the cinematographer of course). On top of this the score is just right a little generic in its tone perhaps but it works and fits the film well. Naturally the cast features a collection of names and faces for whom quality is the norm and generally the film looks and feels like it is a really good product. The only place where it falls down is that it isn't quite as smart as it thinks it is. The story is fairly straightforward and the "message" (if that is the word) is equally simple; this puts a lot of pressure on the lead character of Meyers to be engaging and thrilling in his journey into the murky compromises and twists of politics and this is the problem, it doesn't come over that way.
The solid plot holds the attention and the sleek presentation feels like velvet throughout but the real meat of the story here needs to come through Meyers and sadly the material just doesn't make this happen. In terms of narrative he has it, but in terms of heart and soul of the man, it is lacking and as a result the film is lacking. It shows in Gosling's performance; he is a good presence, easy to look at and follow but he doesn't have enough within him to lift the film. I watched A Single Man the other day, in which Colin Firth delivered a great and nuanced performance that carried that entire film this needed Gosling to do that, but he didn't and/or couldn't with what he was given. Clooney is good in an easier role as are Hoffman, Giamatti, Tomei, Wright and others but they are the dressing around Gosling's character and as good as they look, they cannot hide the fact that the centrepiece just isn't as good as the trimmings suggest.
It isn't a bad film, indeed I quite enjoyed it as it went along, but it is a lot less satisfying than it looks like it will be. Really professional and polished but the heart of the message doesn't come out and the central character doesn't deliver as they should. Solid, but neither as sharp or as smart as it thinks it is or as it should have been.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me start by stating that I do not need a movie to be filled with foul-mouthed, currently PC dialect, or trends at all. With that said, I'm sorry but I found The Ides of March outdated. I was looking forward to an intelligent, political film. This film had absolutely nothing new to offer. Other than pretty leading stars and the always solid backup of Giamatti and Hoffman, I cannot understand the nominations. The story line would have been interesting in the 1960's, not 2011. It seems to me that if you are going to rehash a politician with a squeaky-clean reputation cheating with an intern, at this point there also needs to be some deeper insight or intrigue to the story, otherwise it's a big "why bother?". The interns fate is right out of novels from the early 20th century. They may have explored the Senator's side of the story more; something, anything, to make this relevant to tell again. Like many women, I have no problem looking at Mr. Gosling for 1 1/2 hours- but best screenplay? I'm sure there are many more deserving.
It's difficult to write a review about this film. It's so full of contradictions (artistic and otherwise) that it leaves you with a funny aftertaste. The film is about an idealistic young man working as a consultant for a campaigning politician and the conflicts and dichotomies he has to face if he wants to remain whole and with his integrity unbroken. Purely from the filmmaking standpoint, the movie will remind you of political thrillers of the 70s made by Alan J. Pakula or Sydney Pollack. It's beautifully shot, has a great script, a very ad-hoc music score, great performances by everyone involved. The way the story and main character evolved, however, lacked coherence and at one point I was under the impression I was watching a fragment of a different movie. Somehow it went from A to D, skipping B and C altogether. That alone changed my viewing experience from fully satisfying to one that, as I said at the beginning, left a funny aftertaste. The movie is more of a character study than a political thriller per se; as the former, it works mainly because of the performances by actors who are able to convey the inner conflicts they face. As the latter, don't expect to be taken aback with unpredictable twists or edge-of-your-seat suspense, because you won't find those here. I give it a 7/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Ides of March is a political thriller about the Democratic Primary
in Ohio at the start of a political rally for who will eventually be
nominated to run for President. Political Manager Stephen Myers (Ryan
Gosling) is top of his game as new presidential candidate Mike Morris
(George Clooney) looks to be well on his way to winning the Ohio
primary. However, several moves on the political spectrum, and a
surprise controversy uncovered part way through, shake the idealistic
Myers to his core, and puts him knee deep in a race for the primary
with his candidate as the target to lose it all.
Sounds great right? Well it could have been 7.5 / 10 What Clooney wants with this film is something that was just accomplished by the film Contagion only a few months ago, in short, he wants to realistically represent what actually goes on behind all the media storm and speeches, what really goes into the hearts of the political campaigners as they battle for the chance to win the presidential spot for their party. And the film certainly starts well enough in that spectrum.
But a fundamental shift halfway through the film or so. It goes from realistically portraying the events that take place, to suddenly becoming something much more emotional. What happens isn't so much unbelievable as it is badly placed in a movie that does not seem to want to tell a story as much as make a statement. Instead what it does is tell a story and says to hell with the statement, but still wants to act like it is making a statement.
This is because it goes from realistic to emotional. Contagion worked because it portrayed an outbreak realistically, the emotional parts were limited and had more to do with people being people rather than ever replacing the logical and clockwork functions of a virus, which is clockwork. This movie decides that a logical game of chess (politics, same thing) can be completely destroyed because a pawn has a heart attack.
The real issue is the twist itself and that's stepping into spoilerville. Essentially, so much melodrama is suddenly demanded from one simple scene, that it throws the intelligent and logical viewpoint of the movie so completely off track that it doesn't remember that this is supposed to be a movie about politics and works on more spectrums than just the one going on behind people's bedroom doors.
But at least the acting was great. You hear a lot about Gosling's performance in the lead role, but the greats take the cake, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are so empowered as the heads of their candidates' political campaigns and knowing so much more than Gosling, that you would be more impressed if you hadn't seen them in better movies doing better roles.
All that banter and ranting being said, Ides of March could have been a great movie had it kept its head and tried to offer an acceptable reason for the dirty game of politics, rather than amounting to a few too many cookies missing from the cookie jar. Their reasoning focuses too much on the antics of one type of scandal, rather than the true strategic meanderings of people, media, and candidates. The movie actually leaves us much like Gosling at the end, disappointed, confused, and wondering at what point our true expectations got left behind and converted without us even knowing about it.
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