Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THE IDES OF MARCH (2011)

Written by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon


Directed by George Clooney


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas,  Hollywood, CA, October 10, 2011 7:00PM


George Clooney has returned behind the camera to co-write and direct his fourth film, "The Ides of March" based on the play by Beau Willimon (who co-wrote the screenplay), "Farragut North", which is the name of a Washington D.C. Metro station. that is located near the district's center for lobbyists.There are certainly some intriguing moments and strong performances but despite that, it still ends up being superficial.and unsatisfying.

We first meet Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) as he helps prep the stage for a Democratic Presidential debate in Ohio between the Arkansas Senator, Ted Pullman and the Governor of the state of Pennsylvania, Mike Morris (Clooney). Stephen, who works for the Governor as his junior campaign manager, is young, talented and believes with all his heart that Morris is the best candidate for president.

After the debate, Senator Pullman's Campaign Manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) contacts Stephen, wanting to meet with him privately. Stephen attempts to call his Campaign Manager, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) but is unable to reach him so, against better judgement, he goes to the meeting. Duffy offers Stephen a job to work for the Senator. He is flattered and obviously declines but Stephen decides not to tell Zara about this encounter.

Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), an alluring intern for the Governor's campaign and who just happens to be the daughter of the head of the DNC, comes on aggressively to Stephen and he, being a typical male, easily gives in to her charms.

It's not long before Stephen's hero falls down to Earth as he discovers that Governor Morris is involved in a potential sex scandal that could unravel his candidacy. Stephen also has to deal with disastrous complications arising with the intern and with his secret meeting with the rival's team. With all of his beliefs having been shattered and the realities of a political campaign becoming crystal clear, Stephen must decide where his loyalties truly lie and what is he willing to do to survive this merciless, cut-throat environment.

Mr. Clooney's greatest strength as a director, although it's far from surprising, is his ability to elicit terrific performance from all of his actors, which includes Marisa Tomei as a New York Times reporter fishing for a scoop and Jeffery Wright as an Ohio Senator looking for a political favor in exchange for his endorsement. He did make it much easier on himself by hiring respected character actors such as Mr.Giamatti and Mr. Hoffman who both elevate this material with their unusual skill as well as the bright, young talent of Mr.Gosling and Ms Wood who are both excellent and certainly hold their own in this cast of heavy hitters.

It's fun to see all of these great actors in action but once you take that out of the equation, "The Ides of March" is a fairly routine and predictable story which is too bad because a political race is ripe with compelling, dramatic possibilities. The film touches on how corruption, deception and greed has an even firmer grip on our current political landscape but that's nothing we didn't have extensive knowledge of long before we sat down in the theater.While it does offer a seemingly accurate depiction of all of the endless hours, lack of any kind of real social life and the complete dedication that is required to actually run for office, (which is probably what attracted Mr. Clooney to this project), but "The Ides of March" just doesn't dig nearly deep enough as it's littered with stock types and not any actual flesh and blood characters, flat cinematography and a murky, implausible final act which leads to a limp and unbelievable conclusion.

"The Ides of March" is classy and ambitious with an actual message but the film is never able to come together well enough to reach it's full potential.