THE IDES OF MARCH--Directed by George Clooney/Starring Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood/screenplay written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon/101 min/rated R
Bifocal Review by
Barbara and Gordon Rich
(B) I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I did not take it as seriously as Gordon, however. It just spoke to me as a message from the political arena, that no matter how honest and good your intentions are, you will be corrupted if you enter this arena. Ryan Gosling plays a political wizard in his campaign for George Clooney, but the corrupt reality of politics, forces him to make decisions against his better judgment. Gosling was very convincing as both vulnerable, yet shockingly cold and calculating. Clooney also shows both sides. Kudos to Evan Rachel Wood for her portrayal of the volunteer intern. This character represents those of us who are fascinated by politics, and drawn to it, but who may not fully understand the impact of our interacting with those who strive for power, until after it is too late. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti served very well in their supporting roles, but they always do. In fact, all the performances were great even Marisa Tomei who played the very small role a journalist. It is probably a testament to George Clooney’s ability to make the movies that he wants and cast the great actors of our time in all the roles. I recommend this film with three binoculars.
(G) If I had to pick the one thing that bothered me about most about this film—and I guess I do, since that is the condition that makes a bifocal review—I would have to say that The Ides of March was not so much a story as it was an indictment on politics in general, and that is an easy target to hit these days. On the flip side, what I liked best was watching the talented actors work their magic, without the net of a compelling story. I have to add that usually, a story about the evils of politics would not bother me at all, since I think that the state of politics in this country is every bit as convoluted and self-serving as Clooney makes it out to be, but when you strip away the obvious, there is nothing underneath the hood. “We’ve missed the boat in our political arena in the U.S.”, I think he’s saying. “A good person cannot make it in politics in this country,” I think he’s saying. “There’s a double standard for women, and about a lot of things, especially sex between consenting adults in this country,” I think he’s saying. “Even if you start out with good, altruistic intentions, you are going to get corrupted by the most corrupted aspect of modern life there is,” I think he’s saying. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of these premises. I just don’t agree with his conclusions or like, particularly the path Clooney takes to arrive at them on the screen. I don’t like the idea that we live in a world, for instance, where having sex with an intern is a greater sin than lying, cheating and buying your way to the political top. In the end, all this movie really says to me is that voters are destined to continue to make voting decisions for all the wrong reasons. Syriana did essentially the same thing. In that movie Clooney points out that narrow business interests (even those that most of us have come to depend on, such as oil) or money-grubbing politics (including the justification for war based on disinformation or campaigns of misinformation) have become the norm, rather than the exception. All the actors are excellent as this is one of the strongest overall casts I’ve seen in a long time. Evan Rachel Wood (played the daughter in The Wrestler a few years ago) shows no fear mixing it up with this stellar cast. So, my conclusion is this: If you think this is going to a literary masterpiece because the title borrows a famous warning from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (and if that fact even matters to you) then you are destined for disappointment. I give this one 2 ½ binoculars. With Barbara’s score, and rounding UP we must say this film earns three binoculars.