Film Reviews

THE IDES OF MARCH

By • Oct 8th, 2011 •

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Clooney triumphs as a director. The script is acid sharp and the cast perfect.

Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney) and his skilled team are staging a bitter, tense, and close race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. His election campaign is strategically run by veteran campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Morris’s press secretary is a 30-year-old idealistic charmer, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling). Morris’s opponent, Sen. Pullman (Michael Mantell) also has a savvy veteran, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), directing his campaign. In Machiavellian tactics, Duffy and Zara are equals.

Zara and Duffy love their villainous roles as king makers. Only Meyers believes in Morris’s noble speeches and press releases.

Meyers is a dangerous “comer” and both Zara and Duffy know it. He’s got good looks, charm, and is very good at writing speeches. Stalking the campaign is political reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei). She knows the ropes and plays both sides to her advantage.

Everybody is in bed with the Devil – on alternative nights, of course. (Satan appears in his role as Political Polygamist.)

As a run up to the big debate between Morris and Pullman, both candidates pursue Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) for his influential backing. Thompson’s endorsement for either man will win the Democratic nomination. Only thing is Thompson wants to be assured he will be named Secretary of State in the new cabinet. Morris refuses since he considers Thompson an idiot.

Meyers is so obsessed with politics that he has totally ignored adorable 20-year-old intern, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), whose father happens to be the Chairman of the DNC! You would think Molly would be known as “FOM” (Friend of Morris). Molly has been looking to hook up with Meyers for some time and finally propositions him. He accepts.

The worm turns when Meyers does the unforgivable – by campaign ethics that is – and takes a secret meeting with rival campaign manager Duffy, who offers him a job on Pullman’s team. When Meyers finally tells Zara, Zara goes ballistic.

The third act twists several times as Duffy and Zara are veteran bulldogs, well versed in what to do with youthful challengers armed with good looks and flat stomachs. They eat their young. They take pride in choosing the sacrificial victims to meet their campaign quotas.

They do not care about the candidate, they care about winning. But Meyers is a quick study.

The film is adapted from Beau Willimon’s Off Broadway play “Farragut North”. Written by Clooney, Willimon, and Grant Heslov, it is smart and spellbinding. Directed by Clooney with a strong hand, all the performances are terrific, especially Hoffman and Giamatti who are very capable sparing partners. It’s hard to upstage these two.

Gosling takes center-stage and is the focal point of Clooney’s attention. When the twists come, Gosling has the goods to deliver a believable sense of first betrayal and then revenge.

As the campaigning governor, Clooney has a lot of kumbaya speeches rightly ridiculed by Zara. But when Meyer discovers Morris’s career killing missteps, he is genuinely shattered.

Clooney’s masterful direction and attention to his skilled, veteran cast shows. I was annoyed by Alexandre Desplat’s intrusive score but liked Phedon Papamichael’s menacing, dark photography.

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