Sunday, October 9, 2011
"The Ides of March"
As we prepare to be bombarded by an onslaught of political speeches and agendas in next year's presidential run, director George Clooney presents a fairly standard case of dirty politics in the drama, The Ides of March. The movie tells the story of a young political staffer (Ryan Gosling), whose idealistic notions go up in flames once he becomes jaded by the flawed political game and all its players.
30-year-old Stephen Myers (Gosling) has always trusted the political process. The whip smart political ingenue believes he's found the perfect candidate to serve in democratic Governor Mike Morris (Clooney), one who can propel his own career. But right when his career is about to take off, Myers has an tantalizing sit-down with Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), on the Republican side. This mere meeting leads to a series of events that leaves Myers questioning everything he believes in--Morris, campaigning, democrats, republicans, and his new love interest Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) who's harboring a scandalous secret. Before he realizes it, he's become the pawn in a game he never meant to be a part of. He must learn the rules of the game to flip the script on the players at hand.
The story isn't one we haven't seen before, on and off the screen. But Gosling, and the always pitch perfect Phillip Seymour Hoffman as his right hand man/superior, made the somewhat stale story more interesting to watch. Not only are their performances compelling, but Giamatti's signature slimy voice and demeanor fits perfectly as Duffy. They really are the dream team of actors right now. They acted circles around Clooney's usual charming performance.
One of the few female characters, political reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei), throws a few other curve balls Myers's way, but remains an uninteresting character otherwise. Perhaps a different actress would have worked better. With the exception of her role in The Wrestler, Tomei's recent credits have put her in many throwaway characters, with maybe a few cute one-liners, that aren't necessary bland but don't add anything much to the movie. Ida Horowicz is no exception. Wood, on the other hand, seduces the screen here. Although her role is brief, her performance lingers well after she's left the scene.
The first three quarters of The Ides of March is gripping, and really sets the audience up for a wonderful finish. However, the ending is so unremarkably abrupt that you almost don't even realize it's happening. It cuts off the story right at the kneecaps like it ran out of time and couldn't think of anything else to say. It's like watching a basketball game where your team is in the lead the whole time up until the last fifteen minutes, then decides to goof off and let the other team win. The ending is clearly intentional, but we're not sure what the intention there is. If it's the lesson of corrupt politics, that really does a disservice to its impressive first three quarters. Besides, we really don't need a movie to teach us about dirty politics, right? Real shame about the ending, but the rest of the movie is just marvelous.