Originally published at X-Media Online
The Ides of March delivers exactly what you would expect, whilst shying away from surprises, in a way that is somehow both disappointing and irresistibly satisfying.
Stephen Meyers, played by 2011’s rising star Ryan Gosling, is an idealistic PR man for wannabe Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). He begins the film with strong but adaptable principles that allow him to twist the truth everyday for a greater good, whilst never really dirtying his hands in the muddiest pools of the political swamp. However by the end he’s discovered why the cynics are so disillusioned with the transformative power of politics and learnt that a detached and destructive ruthlessness is vital to climbing this particular career ladder.
The plot changes direction a number of times but is mostly predictable and heavily reliant on an ever building intrigue. Indeed it’s the narrative content of The Ides of March that is a letdown. Clooney delayed the film in the wake of post-Obama political optimism in America, choosing to wait for the inevitable onset of apathy and scepticism. At times it feels as though the creative team behind the project believe that they are exposing the dark, hidden underbelly of the American system, which is in actual fact a familiar and unremarkable mixture of sexual scandal, greed, deceit and privilege.
But at others the filmmakers seem to recognise that the story they’re telling is far from groundbreaking. Instead the focus is on letting great actors play with themes like betrayal, jealousy and ambition. This is when The Ides of March is at its best; when Clooney’s extensive experience in front of the camera enables actor friendly direction from behind it.
It’s fashionable to salivate and drool over Ryan Gosling. Women want to be with him, men want to be him. Film critics of either gender, not content with praising him to the skies, seem to desire an encounter in a hotel room that doesn’t involve an interview. However in my view the older master of seduction, George Clooney, along with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, outshines the young hotshot.
The film is based on a play written by a political insider, which adds authenticity, if not a shockingly enlightening level of truth. The theatrical source material also gives the likes of Clooney, Hoffman and Giamatti the chance to flex their muscles in some solitary speeches, on loyalty or legacies, to Gosling’s character. Clooney is genuinely convincing and attractive Presidential material, who sells policy with inspirational idealism and charm.
A slightly unpredictable ending and the outstanding calibre of pure acting on show ensures that The Ides of March does more than pander to critics, even if its story does lack substance.