The Ides of March
Directed by George Clooney
Starring Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti
“The Ides of March,” adapted from the 2008 Off-Broadway play “Farragut North,” is a cynical take on the business of political campaigning. If you don’t mind your political dramas with a large dose of Shakespearean tragedy, “Ides of March” is a thoroughly absorbing tale powered by terrific performances.
Ryan Gosling (in his third film of the year) stars as Stephen Myers, a brilliant press secretary for a governor (George Clooney) on the brink of clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. Stephen and his boss (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are a campaign dream team as they micromanage press leaks, stage appearances and woo endorsements.
The action all unfolds during the lead-up to the Ohio primary, which the governor must win in order to secure the nomination. The vibe is upbeat and the outlook optimistic — until Stephen agrees to take a meeting with the campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) of his opposing candidate.
What follows is a domino effect of utterly unfortunate circumstances that puts Stephen’s morality and idealism to the test, especially when he learns a big secret about his beloved governor.
Hoffman is in top form and deserves an Oscar nomination, while Gosling is his usual intense yet charming self. Clooney, who pulled double duty as director, is the weak link. His character is a cardboard cut-out of a politician — but then again, maybe it’s good that Clooney takes a back seat, since it allows the main drama to unfold front and center.
“The Ides of March” is not exactly incisive or revelatory. We know politicians are not saints, and we know they all resort to moral compromises — even the good ones.
Still, the political intrigue makes for great drama.