George Clooney‘s Ides of March is a behind the scenes look at the days before the Democratic primary election in Ohio between a fictional US Senator (who looks surprisingly like Vladimir Putin) and a middle of the country Governor (played by George Clooney). In similar films from the past, the stages were filled with smoke filled rooms, while now, smoking has been cordoned off to only blind alleys and parking lots and instead of smoke filled rooms, the rooms are filled with stone cold staring contests and conversations between the likes of the intense characters played by Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman. As my friend Sara put it, the film had a few too many of these intense stare downs, to the point where it was almost comical.
The film sports strong performances, but especially by Gosling and Giamatti (as a character so slimy and jaded, it feels like melted kryptonite), but one can not forget the performances of Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood who provide pivot points for the main players to play off each other.
The film seems to live in a fictional present day that references overtly the former US Presidents from George H.W. Bush through George W. Bush, while also covertly paying reference to the recent message of “hope and change.” At the same time though, the film also reflects back exactly how most Americans feel about politics, especially if you take just how low Americans polled recently have been rating their favorability of Congress below 20%, by showing that behind every strait arrow politician is a room full of dirty tricks and hustling sessions. This film is a far cry from the idealized Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but instead brings shades of grey into this top notch game of political brinkmanship.
The film does a good job of keeping the audience in to loop with the plot except for one conflict point that became far too obvious as to how it would unfold about 3/4 through the film, which came as a surprise to the main character, which was surprising considering how the entire script leading up to that point in the film praised Gosling’s character as being the smartest man in the room, yet allowing the audience to pick up on the trick before he could figure it out. I won’t say anything more specific, in case it actually is not as clear to anyone else seeing this film as it was to this reviewer.
I fully enjoyed this film overall and I look forward to the next film slated for George Clooney in the director’s chair.