The Ides of March takes place during the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, when an up-and-coming campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate's shot at the presidency.
Adapted from the play "Farragut North" by Beau Willimon: print edition
In The Ides of March, George Clooney plays Democratic Presidential Hopeful Mike Morris, whose campaign is being run by veteran manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman from Capote) and idealistic press secretary Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling, who's having a busy year with Crazy, Stupid, Love and Drive). Paul and Stephen realize that Morris must win the primary in Ohio in order to keep his hopes of getting the Democratic nomination alive, and they'll stop at nothing to do it. Morris' competition's campaign manager, a sleazy rat named Tom Duffy (The Illusionist's Paul Giamatti) knows that whoever gains Ohio will gain the nom, and, realizing his candidate has the edge and recognizing Stephen's talent and potential, offers him a job. Stephen chooses his loyalty to Morris over his desire to work for a winning campaign, but not before considering the offer. Stephen meets with Duffy, and the meeting sets off a chain of events that threatens to topple not only his candidate's campaign, but his own political career as well.
The Ides of March is a taut political thriller written and directed by George Clooney. No stranger to being a Hollywood triple-threat -- he also wrote, directed and starred in Good Night, and Good Luck -- Clooney knows what he's doing. The Ides of March seems all too real, making all of the blackmail, extortion and backstabbing look so commonplace that it doesn't even phase the characters. At first it seems like the film is going to be about loyalty and honor, but once the double-crossing starts, the theme turns to betrayal and deception. There are surprises and twists in nearly every scene, and more than once the audience has to take a breath and ask itself "what the hell just happened?" Even the people who seem like they can be trusted cannot be, and everyone has their own agenda, regardless of who they claim to be working for; it's politics.
Adapted from the play "Farragut North: by Beau Willimon, George Clooney wrote the screenplay for The Ides of March with Willimon and his Good Night, and Good Luck collaborator Grant Heslov. The screenplay is mostly dialogue, with very little action. That's alright, because the film is more cerebral than physical. The discussions between characters are never slow or boring, and the words themselves contain the action. The dialogue sounds like it could have (and probably has) been spoken behind closed doors in the thick of a political campaign run.
Although well written, there is one minor issue with the script. Clooney uses his character as a soapbox to preach about alternative energy sources and reduction of reliance on foreign oil. It's great that he feels that way, but it's blatantly obvious that he's trying to ram it down the viewer's throat. Morris' speeches are given front and center attention, even when the candidate's platform has nothing to do with the plot of the movie. Clooney underestimates his audience, thinking that they won't be able to pick up on more subtle references to his agenda. Because of this, Morris' speeches sound like Clooney's speeches, and give the film a propagandistic feel.
The Ides of March is full of impressive performances. Every member of the cast pulls his or her weight and there are no weak links. George Clooney is great as Morris, and one gets the feeling that he'll probably make a fine politician someday. Ryan Gosling sells the character of Stephen with intelligence and sophistication under pressure. Philip Seymour Hoffman is his generation's consummate character actor, and he proves it once again as Paul, arguably the most straightforward character in the film. Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei (both from The Wrestler) shine in their roles as the young intern Molly Stearns and the bitchy reporter Ida Horowicz, respectively. The first-rate ensemble does justice to the wordy, intelligent script, and the film comes off as much more than actors reading lines - the actors are believable, thus making the story believable.
October 7, 2011