Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Don’t Beware Clooney’s “Ides of March”

The Ides of March (2011) is a savvy political drama with some razor sharp performances. George Clooney (who also directed) stars as Mike Morris, the Governor of Pennsylvania, who’s competing against Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman for the Democratic Presidential nomination. His campaign managers, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), seem to be making all the right moves. Morris appears to be a candidate with good sense and integrity. Both campaigns are trying to get the endorsement of North Carolina Senator Franklin Thompson, who controls 356 convention delegates, which could help secure the nomination.

Pullman’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), calls Meyers and asks him to come to a private meeting. Against his better judgment, Meyers attends. What follows is a series of political games, deceit and schemes; that simple meeting sets a series of events in motion that can’t be stopped. As the story moves forward, we get a behind the scenes look at the wheeling & dealing that goes on behind the scenes of the campaign. As he begins an affair with an intern, Meyers learns there is more to the candidate he admires than he first thought.

Gosling is very good as Meyers, the idealistic young man who believes in the system (and his candidate), but may lose that belief by the end of the story. Giamatti and Hoffman are excellent as the opposing campaign managers, who are like two prizefighters circling the ring, or maybe two con men looking to see who’s best at the game. Clooney is very effective as Morris, using his star power & charisma to great advantage in the role. The fine supporting cast includes Jeffrey Wright as Senator Thompson, Marisa Tomei as a reporter covering the campaign, and Evan Rachel Wood as the intern with whom Meyers has an affair.

The well-written screenplay, based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, is by Grant Heslov, Willimon & director-star Clooney. This is a smart, expertly directed political film. It holds up a mirror to the process we use to elect our officials, and the people we choose to run for office. The reflection we see may be a little cloudy, but it makes for an interesting, informative drama. The Ides of March is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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