Friday, June 15, 2012
Dirty, Sexy Politics.
Director: George Clooney
Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Willimon, based on the play 'Farragut North' by Beau Willimon.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle.
Running time: 101 min.
Politics. They're one thing that I should have a strong stance on, but every time I hear about them, my brain switches off. I'm sure they're really interesting and all, but the only thing I think about before my brain switches off is how our government thinks it is okay to take money out of the education system, and they wonder why nothing good ever comes out of this place. It just confuses the crap out of me. One thing that confuses me even more is the way that American politics work. I could not tell you the first thing about American politics. So I guess that makes it seem like The Ides of March, George Clooney's latest directorial effort which is all about a presidential candidate's campaign trail, would not be a very good film for me. Admittedly, a bit of Ryan Gosling eased me into things, but The Ides of March was enough to not only get me a little more interested in the ins and outs of politics (only a little, though), but my eyes were opened to the stuff that may or may not be happening behind these smooth talking hot-shots who claim to have the right stuff for running a country.
What really grabbed my attention was the fact that this film wasn't entirely shown from the presidential candidate's (in this case, Governor Mike Morris, who is played by George Clooney himself) perspective. It is basically told from the perspective of an idealistic staffer, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), who is going along with Morris on his campaign trail but gets involved in some major disputes which could threaten to tear down Morris' perfectly built up persona that is going to get him that presidential role. Stephen is a very interesting character - at the beginning, he seems like your average guy who wants nothing but to see Morris win his campaign (even though he's against all odds), and all you see from him is work, work, work. But then he starts getting thrown around like the ball in a pinball machine. Here he realises that he is just the pawn in some big elaborate plan to tear someone else down, which brings out the cold and unfeeling side in him. Now I couldn't really tell if that mean streak was always in him before everything happened, but it was quite interesting to watch Stephen's descent into playing the dirty games that everyone else was playing. The only actor that could possibly do him justice is the amazing (and extremely good looking) Ryan Gosling. Last year was definitely his year, with a comedic turn in Crazy, Stupid, Love. and then the already iconic emotionless unnamed driver in Drive. However, while most will sway towards the Drive side, my favourite performance of his from last year was definitely his one in Ides. He played Stephen with the right mix of intensity and subtlety, leading to an ending that really makes you wonder what Stephen will do next.
Though I didn't personally have a problem with the finale - the ambiguity was just perfect - the events that preceded it seemed quite rushed. The movie slowly builds, and while it is tense for the most part, the over expository dialogue had my brain teetering on the edge of being interested in a film about politics and reverting to my former stance on politics being totally uninteresting. For all the events that happen in the movie, you kinda expect a bigger payoff, but it seems a bit like a cop out when it comes down to it all. A little bit of meat on the end would have worked nicely, and a bit more spice at the front could have balanced things out. However, when this movie really gets going, it really gets going. The most interesting thing, to me, was the story involving intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood). She is the heart of the story, showing not only the possible devastating effects that politics can have on people, but the devastating effects that maintaining a smooth, flawless image for someone else who wants to succeed, on someone who just happens to be caught up in the middle of it. Wood's performance surprised me, because it was so restrained, which allowed it to really be as affecting as it was. That's another thing - this movie works with subtlety. It doesn't delve into melodrama, it just stays real. Because of that, this film could have been about anything, and even though it is about politics, it is extremely interesting to watch.
I'm really surprised that this only picked up a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination this year. While that was well deserved, I feel like this movie was a little short-changed. The film has a plethora of great stars who give great performances - especially Gosling, Clooney, Wood and the ever dependable Philip Seymour Hoffman - and Clooney also does a fantastic job directing it. To go along with that Alexandre Desplat's score is particularly memorable, the last thing that smooths down the slickness of it. While I can't see it being a major player in the future, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film now, and may even be persuaded to check out more like it.
What I got: