Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Ides of March Review

It's been some time since a dramatic film came out and covered an election from the inside. I'm thinking about Primary Colors, (1998) and The Candidate. (1972) Now actor, director and activist George Clooney has released a political film that he directed called The Ides of March. It's based on a play called Farragut North by Beau Willimon. George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Willimon adapted the play for the film.

The movie takes place during the Ohio Democratic Presidential primary. Pennsylvania governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) is locked in close battle with Senator Ted Pullman for the presidential nomination. After a debate between the two candidates, Pullman's campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) recognizes the brilliance of Morris' communications director Steve Myers. (Ryan Gosling)

Duffy calls Steve to meet at a bar. It's here that Duffy tells Steve that Morris cannot win. Duffy says they have Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) and his delegates in their pocket because they have offered him the position of Secretary of State should they win. Duffy then asks Steve to join the Pullman campaign. Steve turns him down.

Later, recognizing their precarious position, Morris' campaign manager Paul Zara, (Philip Seymour Hoffman) proposes to Morris that they try to woo Thompson and get his delgates. Morris is disgusted with Thompsons' view of the United Nations and refuses to compromise his values. Steve tells Paul about his meeting with Duffy. The information about the meeting shocks Paul and sets events into motion.

If you know anything about politics, you recognize that Clooney rips lines and ideas from real life. When Charlie Rose asks death penalty opponent Morris what he would do if somebody killed his wife, that's a line right from 1988 when Democratic candidate Mike Dukakis got tripped up in a debate. Only this time Clooney's Morris answers the question in a way that shows his human side that would seek revenge and then explaining the need for law. When Morris shows revulsion at the idea of making Thompson, Secretary of State, he comments that Thompson wanted to tear down the top ten floors of the United Nations. That's a line from former U.N. Ambassador John Bolden.

So none of the political action in The Ides of March feels false. Aiding to this effort are the performances. Paul Giamatti is cynical as the campaign manager who will now resort to the dirty tricks that Republicans have been using for years. Evan Rachel Wood is beautiful, and sexy as a politically connected intern. When things go bad for her, she's a study in sadness and loneliness. George Clooney is the idelistic politician who plays his cards to his vest. And Ryan Gosling adds another great performance to his resume. He's confident, desperate and ambitious in one film. It's a great performance.

The Ides of March is about when emotions and ambition trump ideals. It plays like the Godfather of political films. The grade is A.

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