Politics can be a very dirty business. And in a movie like The Ides of March, the dirtier, the better.
Directed by and starring George Clooney (even though he takes a backseat role in front of the camera, allowing Ryan Gosling to take the wheel of what should be yet another star-making vehicle), The Ides of March is a crackling gem as far as performances go. Clooney, Gosling and Paul Giamatti especially bring their A game to March. But Clooney’s bare-bones presentation — while it is gritty — probably hurts his project in the energy department; the film is a wee bit lethargic.
Clooney plays Democratic candidate Gov. Mike Morris, engaged in a presidential primary in the swing state of Ohio. Gosling is his press secretary, Stephen Meyers. While he scoffs at one media member’s suggestion that he “drank the Kool-Aid,” it’s obvious that Meyers believes in his guy to a dangerous level and that, bolstered by his idealistic stances on the issues, Morris is somehow beyond corruption. Uh huh. Right.
Meyers’ mentor is Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Morris’ rumpled and exhausted campaign manager, a veteran in the sport of politics, which probably explains why he’s constantly second guessing everyone and everything. Enter Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the campaign manager of Morris’ rival, who invites Meyers to meet him in an out-of-the-way pub to “have a chat.”
To divulge any more in the synopsis would be revealing essential spoilers. Just know that The Ides of March has more than enough juice to keep you hanging. Clooney, certainly no rookie at the helm (this is the fifth feature film he’s directed) knows how to build suspense; it’s just too bad the script bogs down the journey. The story is a little predictable, and there’s sure no rush to get it out. The Ides of March is a cooker, sure. But it’s a slow cooker.
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give The Ides of March a three. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.