“But is it better to win and deliver on half your pledges or retain your purity and achieve nothing?” (The Guardian)
I was working in a movie theatre when Ides of March came out and I had a vague interest in seeing it. It probably had something to do with Ryan Gosling being in the film, but it was 2011, a year before elections, and I was sick of politics already. It is probably best that I avoided it, but now that I have some political clarity, I actually quite enjoyed the film and for what people my age tend to call “an old person film,” I really appreciated the 102 minute runtime.
Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) is gunning for the presidency and is deep in the trenches of political warfare–the democratic primary campaign. He claims no religion and always smoothly moves the questions in the direction of the constitution. His campaign manager is Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a man who has equally made his life about politics as well as loyalty among the ranks. The Ides of March has its main eye on another character–the right hand man to Zara is the young, dashing idealist Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) who still retains his innocence toward politicians and the campaigning process. He claims the only reason he works for Morris is because he believes that he is the only solution to the country’s problems. It is as if he has Morris on a pedestal and the man can do no wrong.
Things take a turn pretty quickly. The competition’s campaign manager, a Mr. Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), sees something brilliant in Stephen and asks him to meet him at a bar. It is here that he offers the young visionary a job and claims that he has caused another politician to jump ship with a promise of Secretary of State. Stephen is confused and reeling, not sure whether or not he should tell Zara about his meeting and not sure why Duffy would come to him with these stories.
Stephen learns pretty quickly about the value of loyalty, but he also learns that no one is perfect. If you want to survive in this career path, you have to make the tough decisions and sometimes you might even have to compromise your beliefs for a man you once thought a saint. His innocence is shattered and he has to choose whether or not to let others trample all over him or to use the many weapons in his arsenal to get what he wants.
Ides of March is a slow, dialogue driven, political thriller directed by George Clooney that uses its short run-time very effectively. Gosling’s character reminded me a lot of his character in Drive, although this time he is much more talkative. All of the actors did a good job–they were all believable in their roles and the people who you might love in the beginning prove to fool the audience just like they are fooling the American public. Politics can be a dirty game, and this film only shows a part of that.
There is very little bias toward democrats or republicans, although there are shorts snippets of Morris discussing his liberal ideals. It isn’t a film to convince you to become democrat, but more of an insight into a world that we all know is full of liars and manipulation. They all want to get to the top, even the interns.
If this sounds like your kind of movie, I would definitely recommend it. It’s not something I would watch all the time, but it is well made and the scripting, of course, is very well done.