Bottom Line: Very watchable and absorbing.
“You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t f–k the interns. They get you for that.” –Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers
Directed by: George Clooney
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling
Engaging political drama centers on Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), the second in command for the presidential campaign of Democratic Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). Despite strong communications and decisions to make sure Morris cannot possibly lose his election, Meyers, an idealist who claims to believe in nothing but the U.S. Constitution, is facing a crash course. He is dealing with the opposing party, getting stabbed in the back by someone he has considered a friend, and his relationship with a twenty-year-old intern, while also bending his permissions in the campaign. The film is based on a recently-written play entitled Farragut North, which itself was based somewhat on the 2004 Democratic Primary campaign of Howard Dean. The title THE IDES OF MARCH is a much more fitting pick than the title of the play on which it is based. This title is a historical reference to Julius Caesar, who was (at least in William Shakespeare’s theatrical rendition) warned to “beware the ides of March”. On this time of which Caesar was warned, he was in the Roman Senate when he was stabbed to death by tens of people, one of whom was his longtime friend Marcus Junius Brutus. Ever since then, the phrase has been a common saying resembling betrayal. Though more verbal than violent in this film, the reference is quite clear, even if the film was released in the beginning of October.
Performances is the first of many great things this drama has to offer. Aside from the impressive performances by Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Evan Rachel Wood, Ryan Gosling has the main role in this film, as he did in two other films of last year, DRIVE and CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. Even though the role he had assumed wasn’t terribly difficult, I’d have to say he does a fine job, and quite believable, as well. I may be over-analyzing a bit in saying so, but the slang he uses in his dialogue, and the sense of informality he presents, helps his character gain his overall strength. If we had a man who was a straightforward, serious personality, it would be hard to believe him as someone to deal with dirty politics at all. With someone who isn’t over the top, but noticeably a bit laid back and sarcastic, it’s completely plausible. George Clooney was also great here, but I must mention that I was disappointed with him for various reasons. One, he wasn’t nearly as great here as he was in his tour-de-force leading role in last year’s THE DESCENDANTS. But that’s definitely acceptable, because that last role he took on was utterly flawless, so (seeing from an actor’s perspective) it would be quite difficult to meet those standards within the same twelve months’ time frame. Two, his character was far too small. Sure, Mike Morris, his character, was mentioned a lot in this film. In fact, he was the film’s pivotal subject. Clooney just didn’t get enough screen time. We’re so used to seeing this actor (who in my opinion, is one of the greatest performers still famous in the twenty-first century) in leading roles, or at least major ones. Here, he gets five, maybe ten minutes of time on the screen.
“I’m not a Christian. I’m not an Atheist. I’m not Jewish. I’m not Muslim. My religion, what I believe in is called the Constitution of United States of America.” –Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers
Clooney wasn’t just an actor here, though. Some may prefer to call him a “quadruple-threat”–not triple, quadruple–as director, producer, writer, and actor. He hasn’t really directed very many films: other than this, he has done CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, LEATHERHEADS, and GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. When it comes to his producing credits, the man’s unpredictable and quite varied. Writing is a whole different, more significant aspect. Clooney has only written one other film, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, which was also a political drama of sorts. This suffers the same tragedy 2005’s GOOD NIGHT did. Both films are great, or would have been, if it weren’t for the fast dialogue and the rushed ending. Unlike GOOD NIGHT, this one has much more to support itself.