Saturday, October 15, 2011

Movie review: The Ides of March

The Ides of March, the new political thriller written, directed, and starring George Clooney is first-rate entertainment.  Especially for political junkies like me.

Start with the cast.  Ryan Gosling gets top billing on a fully loaded roster:  George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti and Evan Rachel Wood.  There is no weak spot in that line up.  And they all came to play.  Two-thousand eleven appears to be Gosling's year to ascend.  This is the second consecutive flick that I've seen with him as the lead, and he's delivered both times.

In Ides, Gosling is Stephen Meyers, an up-and-coming political kick. He's the right-hand man to Paul Zara (Hoffman) who runs the presidential campaign of  Governor Mike Morris (Clooney).  Morris is engaged with Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell) in a bruising Democratic primary in Ohio.  There is a lot riding on the outcome of the election.  Ida Horowicz (Tomei), the New York Times political reporter is snooping around looking for some dirt and Molly Stearns (Woods) is a young and beautiful intern with a "thing" for Meyers.  In the thick of it, Pullman's campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Giamatti), approaches Meyers with a tempting but dangerous offer.

What unfolds thereafter is a delicious passion play.  The story twists and turns unpredictably to arrive at a conclusion that, though we cannot have foreseen it, confirms our most cynical suspicions.  Politics is a dirty game that sometimes has tragic consequences.

It's not that the story is all that unique.  I can think of three or four "politics corrupts a young idealist" movies off the top of my head.  What makes Ides a really good flick is the dialog and the chemistry between the cast.  The lines come sharp and fast and expertly delivered.

I've been a Clooney fan ever since O Brother.  Great actor, great writer, great director, and a political lefty.  What's not to like?

Two nits.

One:  although I enjoyed Ryan Gosling's performance in Ides, and I enjoyed him in Drive even more, the two roles are pretty straight-up.  In both flicks, Gosling's character is a tight-jawed tough guy with a spine of steel.  Well, after all, that kind of role launched careers for great actors like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen.  But I'd like to see Gosling try something a little different next time.

Two:  The Ides of March is a good flick, but it ain't Shakespeare.  I find the title to be pretentious. (Hell, I don't know.  Maybe I'm just too sensitive when it comes to Shakespeare.) 

Thumbs-up on Ides.  Go see it.

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