Main image
21st November
written by Mad Cow

Rating: R for pervasive language (we have to supply the adjective here)

Mad Cow’s Rating: three cowbells

Note to George Clooney:  Just when I thought I could trust you with women’s roles, you mess it up bad! Next time, consult a woman! Call Nora Ephron or someone.

The Ides of March, based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, was written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon. Clooney directed. Mike Morris (Clooney) is a Democratic Governor from Pennsylvania who is running in the Ohio primary against a guy named Pullman, who gets no screen time. Clooney plays a presidential candidate (Mike Morris), undoubtedly having known for a while that he looks like one, but the action focuses on the behind-the-scenes people, the campaign managers. As usual, Clooney is content to cast himself as the story dictates and give center stage to the story itself.

Credit goes to an all-star cast, starring Ryan Gosling as Stephen Myers, second in command to campaign head Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  With Paul Giamatti as Tom Duffy, head of the opposing camp, and brief appearances of Marisa Tormei as Times reporter Ida Horowicz and Jeffrey Wright (Source Code) as an African American right-wing Senator, it’s no wonder that the acting is a joy to behold. Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler, Across the Universe) does well with what she has, but unfortunately represents the weakest link in the plot, which would be ok if she didn’t also represent its turning point.

Myers appears to be the devoted follower of his hero, Mike Morris, willing to do anything and everything for someone whose positions he admires. He’s young and maybe wet behind the ears. Morris is a liberal, and we get some refreshing snippets that reflect intelligent, rational and compassionate (not to mention fearless) political statements, a la the former President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) of the West Wing. Certainly no one in real life. It doesn’t take long, though, for us to see the underside of the political patina.

Myers makes a couple of serious political mistakes, not the least of which is allowing himself to be seduced by an intern, Molly Stearns (Wood), whose father happens to be the head of the Democratic National Committee. The second she appears we know that she is going to be Big Trouble. The suspense is quite fun, though, as we wait to see what the trouble is going to be. Is she a spy for the other side, for example?

Faced with the Trouble and the fallout of his political ambition, Myers learns lots of lessons from Duffy and Zara, in wonderful scenes in which Giametti and Hoffman give their all. Either or both will surely be tapped for supporting actor awards. Their scenes are riveting and thoroughly enjoyable. But the tides turn and we wonder if Myers is all that he’s said he is. We don’t really see the turning point and it’s up to the viewer to decide if Myers has changed or has been the same guy all along. Thanks to Gosling’s precision acting, we don’t know. Myers represents a youthful stoic cynicism that is way scarier than that of the old guys.

The least developed character is Molly. We are unsure of her motivations except for the fact that she likes sex and wants to have it with Stephen, a lot. Their affair is sweet and a pleasing respite from the daily grind. Then, at an extremely upsetting moment in Molly’s life (in any woman’s life), she shows no signs of her agitation. Given just a little reflection, at least by a woman, this is fairly unbelievable. We don’t know how Molly feels and must surmise her feelings and the reasons for her actions. Ultimately Molly is punished theatrically for her transgresses ions. She is a plot device and not a very original one at that. But we don’t care. It’s what happens to the men that counts.

In spite of everything I recommend this well-made suspenseful, well-acted movie. But it could have been much better. George, are you out there?

Comments are closed.