That’s a scene from the new political drama, “The Ides of March.” It’s one of the new movies we will be reviewing this week. I’m Christy Lemire of the Associated Press.
And I’m Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of mubi.com. First up is THE IDES OF MARCH, which marks George Clooney’s third outing as a director. It’s a political drama set during a Democratic presidential primary. Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, a savvy young campaign strategist. Clooney plays Meyers’ candidate, a charismatic Governor of Pennsylvania.
From the opening scene, which shows a technical run-through of a televised debate, it’s clear that IDES OF MARCH is about the nuts-and-bolts of politics. And although it has some thriller overtones, at its core, this is a movie about the complicated ways in which candidates, strategists, aides and the media manipulate one another in a modern political campaign.
Stephen gets a secret offer from the head of the rival campaign, played by Paul Giamatti. He turns it down, but soon finds himself involved in some underhanded political maneuvering.
If you’ve seen Clooney’s GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK you know what you’re in for: this is another well-directed, well-acted film that’s equally enamored with—and critical of—American liberal politics. While I enjoyed the movie and thought that Gosling was convincing as a modern campaign operative, I never found him very believable as either a liberal idealist or a disillusioned cynic. He is just too cool, and that gives the film an empty center. Still, I liked this enough to give it a thumbs up.
CHRISTY: I give it a thumbs up as well. Everyone is great in it, and Clooney being an excellent actor himself knows how to direct other actors and really get the best out of them. Phillip Seymour Hoffman gets an especially showy role as the head of Clooney’s campaign.
IGNATIY: Well, I wouldn’t call it…I wouldn’t call it showy. I think…
CHRISTY: I think it totally is
IGNATIY: I think everybody here…
CHRISTY: He’s gruff, and he’s sarcastic.
IGNATIY: I think everyone here is very actorly. I mean they’re, the performances are not I wouldn’t say they’re especially naturalistic.
CHRISTY: Well, it’s a play. It was a play that it was based on. That structure is clear.
IGNATIY: Yeah, but at the same time they’re not really showy. Not even Gosling really has, you know, a big grand standing moment in the film.
CHRISTY: But Gosling has more of an arc than I think you’re giving him credit for here because he does start out very idealistic. And it’s a cynical world, a cynical business, but he believes in this guy and is willing to be devoted to him. And that belief is shattered, and that change is believable. The event, though, that takes place, and I’m not going to give it away. There’s a huge subplot; a big plot twist involving Evan Rachel Wood as an intern, I do not buy that for a second. And that is a huge problem because that’s what everything hinges on. I don’t believe the motivations. I don’t believe the actions. That’s problem. So, I have a very reserved thumb up.
IGNATIY: I think there’s…the big flaw with this film and it is a good movie. It’s a movie I enjoy, but the big flaw with it is that what should be at the kind of the center. The thriller plot is very weak where as all the things on the outsides; all of the supporting performances, and all of the observations about politics those are very good—very strong.