“Nothing bad happens when you’re doing the right thing.”
Part-time actor, full-time handsome, George Clooney brings to us a new aspect for which to praise him in the form of film adaptation The Ides of March: a foray into the world of politics. But before we start in on the praise we have to all first set aside our lust for him so that we can comfortably discuss the merits of his work with dry panties. We good to go? Cool, cause I’m issuing a nationwide spoiler alert and if you don’t like it, don’t vote for me.
Governor of Pennsylvania Mike Morris (Clooney) is a presidential democratic candidate. I buy that; Clooney has the jawline to be President, I’m into it, what’s next? Well, Stephen Meyers ( Ryan Gosling) is the Junior Campaign Manager for Morris, to Paul Zara’s (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Senior Campaign Manager. You get slapped in the face with the dynamic between these men right out of the gate.
The film features all of your political hallmarks. A sassy brunette journalist, Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei), who won’t stop until the story is in her pocket. She’s got the in with the politicians, and her character represents how the media interacts with politics, or rather how the media is an integral part of politics. The facilitation and control of the flow of information to the public determines not only the way people think, but the way people vote, the way politicians act, and the way shit gets done. Check.
You’ve got your run of the mill political banter. The character sum up the state of the modern political landscape in charming one-liners. They’ve got the classic juxtaposition of an exceptionally noble candidate against a world of compromised, unprincipled, corrupted little politicians. Alongside that exceptionally principled candidate is a loyal hive of worker bees. Zara being the queen bee. Meyer being the most photogenic and charismatic bee. Check.
Then the most central themes: corruption. We all walk into a movie like this knowing that it is going to end up being about corruption. In that way this is a predictable story. But predictability doesn’t determine the quality of a film, at least not all on it’s own. So we saw it coming, but it still hits hard. Along with Meyer we all start out admitting a series of truths to ourselves while watching this film:
- Politics are corrupt
- Politicians lie
- The standard for public servants has dropped
- The electorate is wildly uninformed
- The media, large corporations, and special interests have too much influence
But like Meyer, we buy into the idea that even in a sea of seemingly incurable diseases in our political system there only need be one person with the integrity to stand up against it all and demand better. To be better. The Ides of March isn’t a story of the political world, of election year, of a Presidential candidate’s shot at being elected. The film is ultimately about Meyer traveling from the periphery of politics, right into the storm’s eye. But this isn’t the story of a kid who just learned Santa Claus isn’t real. It’s too simple to describe Meyer as naive. Goslings expert portrayal of Stephen Meyer illustrates a down spiral sparked by the last hallmark: sex.
Stephen Meyers: You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t fuck the interns. They get you for that.
The bombshell that was Molly Stearns’ (Evan Rachel Wood) brief affair and subsequent pregnancy was the game changer. This is when Meyer breaks, and launches a chain of events that tells the story louder and clearer than anything else in the entire movie. The shining beacon of light that was Mike Morris was A) a cheater B) a liar and C) a soon to be father to the child of an intern working on his own campaign. Not only does this failing in Morris’ character change everything for Meyer, it highlights an proven truth in politics: when it comes to holding office, the personal stuff matters. Sex matters. (Ahem, Clinton anyone?)
The cast was a collection of competent actors in undemanding roles. So in terms of acting, veterans like Hoffman, Clooney, Tomei and Giamatti gave solid, convincing performances. Up and comer, and solid 9, Ryan Gosling stunned in the main role, further demonstrating his versatility and ability to be well-received by varying audiences. Evan Rachel Wood played a convincing intern. Which isn’t very high praise, but maybe I’m just bitter about the fact that she appeared in at least 10 scenes in the movie and no one thought ‘hey, maybe we should dye this girl’s roots’. Tacky bastards.
The value of the film is in it’s clean and digestible approach to discussing politics. However, this film doesn’t do much to add to the conversation about the current state of politics. It doesn’t provide any new revelations. It simply serves to tell a story of characters through commonly understood political themes. Where the film goes wrong is that is pretends to be a a revelation. Instead of putting more weight on the characters (charming as they are) Clooney allowed the film to be driven primarily by the plot, which itself was very predictable.
For what it was, it was a solid movie and it was well orchestrated. I enjoyed it very much, myself. But then, I don’t know how much of that is due to ovary overload with Clooney and Gosling. Anyway, if you’re into politics, watch it. If you’re not into politics, watch it, learn something, then make damn sure to do your homework afterward.