“My religion, what I believe in, is called the Constitution of the United States of America.”
Myers (Ryan Gosling) knows the line because he’s heard it a hundred times before, because he believes it and believes in the man who says it, his presidential candidate-boss, Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney).
“The Ides of March,” George Clooney’s latest civics lesson as actor and director, is a down and dirty politics-behind-closed-doors tale. It’s about a campaign professional (Gosling) letting his idealism get in the way of his professionalism. And it’s about disillusionment, ugly pragmatism, back-room deals and maneuvering in this mass media/social media/no secrets age.
Clooney plays a candidate about to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination. He needs the support of a key senator (Jeffrey Wright) who is angling for a political payoff. He needs all the cunning that his campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) can manage, because Governor Morris makes a big deal out of not making “those sorts of deals.” And he needs the loyalty and idealism of Myers, a media mastermind who has brought him so close to his goal.
But Myers is distracted. First, there’s the nagging New York Times reporter (Marisa Tomei)
Her: “You’ve really drunk the Kool-Aid.”
Him: “It tastes delicious.”
Her: “He will let you down. He’s a politician. You used to know that before you got all goose-bumpy.”
Myers is distracted by the to0-cute/way-too-forward intern (Evan Rachel Wood).
“The Ides of March,” based on Beau Willimon’s play “Farragut North” (named for a Washington subway stop), veers from high-minded political theater to cheap political melodrama. But a cast littered with this many Oscar winners, all in support of a less-self-conscious-than-usual Ryan Gosling, could never go far wrong.
The film boasts a script of pithy political banter and sexy “drinks after work” bar banter.
“This is the Big Leagues, man. If you make a mistake, you lose the right to play.”
Giamatti and Hoffman are beautifully matched opponents, balancing the picture the way the on-the-make Wood and the on-the-job Tomei do in female supporting roles.
And Clooney, cool, collected, committed and above it all, makes the perfect candidate. He and Gosling are matched as the smart, never-let-them-see-you-sweat set, as opposed to the seething-sweating Giamatti and Hoffman.
“Ides of March” has a good script, not a great one. So it isn’t a great film. But it is a smart and high-minded one, wonderfully cast, with understated direction. Clooney is good enough in the lead to stir talk of a political future. But he’s good enough behind the camera to make one hope that he’ll commit to doing more of that, instead.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei
Credits: Directed by George Clooney, written by Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, based on a play by Willimon. A Columbia Pictures release.
Running time: 1:41