Friday, October 7, 2011

"The Ides of March are come"

As Caesar said, “The Ides of March are come.” 
It’s not the 15th of the month, but the Ides are indeed here and there’s no need to beware. The Ides of March, starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling, opens today, heralding the official beginning of the Oscar race.
What do we think of when we say “Ides of March”? Betrayal by those you trust. Hence the title of this terrific film.
But there are many forms of betrayal, and its many forms are explored here. The story takes place during the last few frantic days before a heavily contested and pivotal Ohio presidential primary, pitting two Democrats. Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney) is waging a tight race led by his campaign manager Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and press secretary Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling). Stephen is an idealist who reveres Morris. Paul Giamatti is Hoffman’s counterpart. When a chink appears in the governor’s armor, Stephen faces the biggest challenge of his career. His idealism is shattered in ways we don’t see coming.
Ryan Gosling is winning, no matter which way the campaign goes.
Clooney co-wrote and directed this taut political thriller. While the challenges of the campaign are not new, and in fact mirror reality, the way these participants handle the challenges is gripping and revealing.The inside look at a campaign is fascinating and it, like everything else in the movie, feels authentic. That is one of the film’s strengths. Another strength is the powerhouse cast – each of them hitting just the right notes.
The film revolves around the character of Stephen Meyers. Ryan Gosling, that chameleon actor who dominates every film he is in, positively shimmers in this and is sure to garner an Oscar nod. Not far behind is Clooney as the enigmatic candidate. Nor is Philip Seymour Hoffman (I can’t think of a bad performance in his career) who is both likable and ruthless. Paul Giamatti is likewise ruthless. The women in this story are equally powerful and engaging. Young intern Molly Stearns, portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood, catches the eye of Stephen, resulting in a complicated relationship. (FYI, Mollys’ father, Jack, is played by Gregory Itzin, so good on 24.) Marisa Tomei is compelling as New York Times reporter Ida Horowicz.
The script is very smart, and echoes many themes in today’s politics, which even supplies one of the film’s funniest and most ironic references. 
George Clooney (left) and Ryan Gosling (center) in a staff meeting.
I liked that the movie moved quickly, with zigs and zags we don’t see coming. I love it when I can’t predict where a movie is going. 
This is not a spoiler, but the ending is abrupt and may infuriate some. I personally loved it.
Just as I loved this smart film, shot on location in Cincinnati, and especially the acting of Ryan Gosling – who never looked better, and that’s saying something!
This film earns 3 1/2 reels (out of 4).

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