‘The Ides of March’: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

The Ides of March (2011)
Directed by George Clooney
101 mins.
***(out of four)

By Tim Lucia

George Clooney’s fourth directorial feature The Ides of March has hit theaters, as the Fall movie season is now in full swing.  Clooney’s first two efforts, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night and Good Luck were met with critical acclaim, the latter earning some Oscar nods.  His third feature, Leatherheads, was met with mixed reviews, but is a fairly enjoyable film in the tradition of classic Hollywood romantic comedies, a la Tracy and Hepburn.  March is his latest, a political drama with an all-star cast; a cynical view on the behind-the-scenes goings on during a campaign.

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is an idealistic staffer for Presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney), and a rising star in the political campaign world.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is on board as Morris’ campaign manager, Evan Rachel Wood as a sexy intern.  Against his better judgement, Stephen takes a meeting with the manager of the rival campaign (Paul Giamatti) and hooks up with said sexy intern.  With a reporter (Marissa Tomei) on his case, Stephen is caught between a rock and a hard place, and soon realizes he will have to get his hands dirty, just like everyone around him.

Adapted from the play Farragut North by Clooney, Grant Heslov, and playwright Beau Willimon, March features some very sharp dialogue and solid performances.  Hoffman steals every scene he’s in, Clooney brings a dark mysteriousness to the character of Morris, and Gosling broodingly stares down everyone, as he does so well.  But, the film is too short for its genre, clocking in at only 101 minutes; Hoffman, Tomei, and Giamatti are all underutilized.  Wood’s character was not entirely believable, and the film was fairly predictable at times.

March is a decent and fairly enjoyable film, but it’s not without flaws.  Though I’m giving it three stars, there’s really no need to rush out and see it in the theater.  Clooney will be on the big screen again November 16th with The Descendants, director Alexander Payne’s (Sideways, About Schmidt, Election) first film in seven years (I am excited).  If you need another dose of the brooding Gosling, Drive, Nicholas Winding Refn’s instant cult-classic is also out there, an incredibly directed film which blends action, crime, and romance with shocking violence and a great soundtrack.  Stay tuned for Clooney in The Descendants and 2012’s Gravity, a sci-fi thriller from Children of Men and Y Tu Mama Tambien director Alfonso Cuaron.

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