Review: The Ides of March

Director: George Clooney

Screenplay: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon

Key cast: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood

Rating: 4 stars

Whilst telling the story of a Democratic primary, George Clooney’s adaptation of Beau Willimon’s play, Farragut North, shows us the cruel reality of a political race. With the only criticism being the predictability of the script, The Ides of March paints a beautiful picture of an idealistic campaign manager’s (Ryan Gosling) discovery of the harshness of real life.

Although watching Steven Meyers (Gosling) working for Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) does not expose any revelatory truths of the political process, it acts as a reminder that politics always has, always is, and always will be a difficult and not at all justifiable choice of profession. Meyers learns it the hard way that behind the scenes, with all moral values and integrity pushed aside, one is left cleaning up someone else’s mess in the corrupt dogfight of an electoral campaign.

Not dissimilar to the award-winning show, The West Wing, this political drama is adorned with snappy, sharp banter, whilst smoothly dropping hints of controversial issues for the benefit of the audience; in this case the notion of mandatory conscription to the army. Had the issue been developed further, the film might have exuded a more interesting outcome, but all complaints are instantly forgotten when Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) begin their tug of war act to win over the talented young staffer for their individual campaigns. Meyers’ principal love interest, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) plays a young, naïve intern who watches the drama unfold around her from the sidelines, until she too, is sucked into the campaign’s vortex of crap.

When asked whether he would choose to pursue a career in politics after directing and starring in the film, Clooney responds truthfully with a chuckle and a blunt, “Heck no. I’m a Hollywood actor – I’m already going to hell as it is.” What Gosling’s character learns the hard way, Clooney reiterates; “Deals are made all the time in politics and scandals are not uncommon. It [the film] reflects things that are pretty timeless, things that refer not only to politics but to real life as well.”

The Ides of March shows a world stripped of heroes and heroines, where each is left to fight their own battles, even if it means stepping on heads in the process. Or as the title of the film indicates, even if it means the same as in Shakespeare’s Julias Ceasar – stabbing someone in the back 23 times.  As enjoyable as it is worrying, this smooth and ice-cold drama is undoubtedly one of Gosling’s best performances, and rings out clearly the same message as Shakespeare’s acclaimed play – “Beware the Ides of March”.

 

An edited version of this article appeared in Issue 754 of the Newspaper of the LSE Students’ Union, The Beaver.

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