THE IDES OF MARCH (Dir. George Clooney, 2011)
Ryan Gosling continues his dominance of the silver screen this year in George Clooney’s 4th film as director, a political drama that’s flawed yet still a gem.
As a presidential campaign advisor, Gosling utilizes the same cool confidence he had in last month’s DRIVE in his back room dealings to get Clooney, as a Democratic Pennsylvania Governor, into the White House.
Gosling answers to Philip Seymour Hoffman as Clooney’s harried campaign manager whose rival on the competing Republican candidate’s team is Paul Giamatti, which is great because I’ve wanted to see Hoffman and Giamatti in a film together for ages.
Hence the title, the film takes place in March right before the crucial Ohio primary and deals with a scandalous secret involving a young staffer (Evan Rachel Wood) who Gosling has a fling with.
Wood just happens to be the daughter of the present head of the National Democratic Party, so a tangled web is being weaved when Gosling learns incredibly damaging information about his man in the race.
Giamatti wants to woo Gosling over to his side, and that might not be such a far-fetched option, but not one he’s going to leak to Marissa Tomei, Hoffman’s co-star from BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD, as a New York Times Reporter.
To have these big names reciting lofty dialogue in this tightly directed film goes a long way. Sure, it’s a story we’ve heard many times before about corruption and compromise, idealism vs. empty ambition, but with these acting heavyweights aided by a sharp screenplay it’s an essential experience.
Except for a few major moments, Clooney mainly stays in the background while Gosling carries the movie. It builds to a chilling confrontation between the 2 men that I really wish television ad spots for the film wouldn’t show clips of. It’s not a spoiler that ruins the movie, but it’s still a little too revealing.
THE IDES OF MARCH doesn’t reach the heights of Clooney’s GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, for there are some convolutions in the plot mechanics. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that Gosling alone would be able to manipulate the situation so cunningly, but the film gets so close to brilliance that it’s easy to look past such gaps in logic.
With a stellar cast, excellent cinematography by Phaedon Pappamichael, an un-imposing score by Alexandre Desplat, and a screenplay written by Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon (the film is based on Willimon’s play “Farragut North”), this is certainly the definition of a prestige picture, or more crudely Oscar bait.
It does has power aplenty to take it through to awards season, but I bet it will hailed more for its performances over any statement about dirty politics that it tries to make.