Friday, October 14, 2011

‘Ides of March’ – Tired of politics yet?

George Clooney’s ‘Ides of March’ is supposed to be a political thriller. But, in order to be that, it must be thrilling to begin with. More a stump speech for Clooney’s obvious political views, ‘The Ides of March’, while filled with solid performances, simply fails to live up to what a political thriller should be. If you want a taunt political thriller, rent ‘The Candidate’ the 1972 film with Robert Redford.

While most of ‘The Ides of March’ is believable and relevant to what today’s Democratic Party believes, what is not believable is the shear gullibility of campaign strategist Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling, whom I like more and more with each film he does). Working for Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) who is running for the Democratic Primary Presidential Ticket, Meyer’s job is to get his boss elected. He supplies Morris with tag lines and position pieces that help place him on the brink of victory. Tags like ‘My religion is the Constitution of the United States of America’, as well as positioning that awards each college student with free tuition if they provide two years of public service; winning thoughts and policies, even by today standards. Where Clooney as Director goes wrong though; Meyers actually believes the lines he creates. He actually believes in his candidate and places all of his faith in him.

Gosling plays Meyer with a smart and very cool attitude. He is the type that has breezed through life on his good look and charms. He knows people, he understands them and is very good at manipulating them; so why is it that he gets so manipulated in the film? It just doesn’t fit or make sense. He is lead around and obviously so, by Paul Philip (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the campaign manager for Morris who worries that Meyer will take his job. This manipulation, coupled with some bad choices (also uncharacteristic) toss Meyers in the flames of politics at its worst (or what we feel to be normal politics).

Ryan Gosling continues to impress as an actor – he has improved with each performance. While he does not disappoint here, he is weighed down by disappointing material. But, the good news, Gosling is able to make a very doe-eyed idealist, very believable; I still think he was fantastic in the much better thriller ‘Drive’ (which if you haven’t seen yet, what are you waiting for?). George Clooney is as good as always, looking Presidential and confident, even when he becomes wrapped up in a scandal of his own causing. As a Director, Clooney has really come to age and has proven himself very capable. However, as a screenwriter (he co-wrote the script with Grant Heslov, based on a play by Beau Willimon), Clooney falls into the trap of pushing his own personal political agenda rather than that of the character.  We are treated to one too many sound bites that seem to have cascaded from the Democratic Party in a season when political offices of both parties are extremely split. It would have been tighter and better to focus on the scandal, what it does to the people surrounding it and what it does to the country (potentially).

Clooney’s constant pouring of his political beliefs become heavy handed by the end of the film; it is the same reason that ‘Lions for Lambs’, Robert Redford’s political thriller, failed. They chose to focus too much on the political message rather than the situation that made the story thrilling. By the end of both films, I was ready for them to be done with them! You should leave a film energized and moved, one way or the other; this 2 ½ star effort left me running for the door!

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