The Ides of March

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 This title is a historical reference to Julius Caesar, who was (at least in William Shakespeare’s theatrical rendition) warned to “beware the ides of March”.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.

17 thoughts on “The Ides of March

    • Thanks! I’m interested to see what you have to say (or rather write) about it. I found it to be great, and well near mind-blowing, but many others didn’t care for it. The Rotten Tomatoes score was something in the 80%-90% range of “fresh” scores, but they consider “fresh” a B-/3 out of 5/2.5 out of 4 or above, and I’d guess there were a lot of those reviews. I know only two or three other people who gave it as high a grade as I did.

  1. Great review. As you know, I liked this movie a lot. Evan Rachel Wood, Giamatti and Hoffman being the standouts among the cast. I think the former is a very underrated actress. Sure, she has had terrible performances (Across the Universe) but also amazingly good ones (Mildred Pierce). I liked Clooney but I also preferred him in The Descendants, which was arguably the best male performance of the year. Gosling let me down a little bit, though. I think his work here amounted to opening his eyes real wide. Loved the quote at the beginning, it’s the best (or at least the most memorable) line in the film. The second one rings a little cheesy for me. Cool poster, too.

    • Thanks. I think the second quote is a bit cheesy, as well, but it defines Gosling’s character. And George Clooney was better in The Descendants! As much as I loved Dujardin in The Artist, I don’t think he should have picked up the award there, though. As for Wood, I can’t quite agree because I’ve only seen her otherwise in Across the Universe, a movie I remember loving everything about except her acting, haha.

  2. Great review man. I personally preferred Good Night And Good Luck to this though. Maybe that’s because I’m fascinated with the McCarthy era of American politics though. I found lots to enjoy here, mainly the performances as you mention, but I found it a little lacking in something. Clooney for sure, was underused (at least in the acting stakes)

    • I’m fascinated, too, by McCarthyism, but I thought Good Night just wasn’t enough. It was good, but insufficient for me. In an analogy, I’d think of it as an idiot (not that it is one) who gets a new job. The idiot gets the job, a good job, but the job seems so difficult for him that he sits around unknowing of what to do for 90 minutes. 🙂 Good Night was the same, for me. It had a great premise, but once that was established within the first half hour or so, it seemed to be stalling in a routinely way. I liked it for one watch, but it’s unlikely I’d watch it again.

  3. Nice review! I agree, it’s a very watchable movie. Fell a little short of being great, but still admirable in many ways. Wasn’t Philip Seymour Hoffman great here? He didn’t get enough love his portrayal here. And yes! We needed more Clooney! We all sure could use more Clooney in our lives, eh?

  4. Yes, I am glad you liked it. I thought this movie was great, and I agree with everything you had to say about it. I found the ending extrewmly well done. But, still there felt like there was a scene missing in the ending. I gave it a 3 and a half stars out of four, but I would give it a A- if I were using your rating system. Excellent review.

    • ***SPOILERS***

      I agree with your point that there was a scene missing in the ending, maybe a few scenes. Have you seen Good Night, and Good Luck? Clooney did the same thing there. For Ides of March, it seemed that the part in which Molly committed suicide was just the middle, as in Good Night, and Good Luck, one of the scenes in which Edward R. Murrow appeared on his nightly program (which happened to be the last of these instances) seemed to be the middle. But it was the end. That was probably one of the only things I didn’t like about it.

      • No I have not seen those yet. I want to though. Like I said, I thought it was a good and well done ending for the most part. Still, it could have been tweaked some. I felt the whole movie was paced perfect, save for the ending. I do agree with you. A few short scenes thrown in the mix would have solved everything.

        • Yes, definitely. They slowed the ending down so much that I initially thought they were trying to heighten tension, but it seems now that they were trying to even out the time leading up to the ending.

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