October 18, 2011

Hypocrisy For the Win!

A few weeks ago, on the LAMBcast, I stated that I would rather see a political thriller than a family drama. This was the direct result of two movies being brought up, The Descendants and The Ides of March, both of which star George Clooney. I don't know much of anything about The Descendants, but The Ides of March has been high on watch list ever since the trailer was released. A smart, thought out, tense political procedural is something that we don't get enough of these days, and is something that is pretty damn relevant as the country starts to go politician crazy!

By the way, Michelle Bachman is nuts!

The Ides of March boasts a killer cast doing excellent work, a strong script based on an excellent play, with a solid director at the helm. And yet... I didn't really like it. I don't really know what happened. Maybe it went way over my head and I need to see it again, but whatever it was, I walked out of the theatre feeling a profound disconnect to the events on screen. I wonder if all politicians are like this, cuz if they are, I'm glad I'm not getting into the business.

Hey girl, do you like politics?

It's March, and the Democratic primaries crucial to deciding the eventual presidential nominee are in full swing. Currently on the board is Ohio, where Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris is competing against Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman. Heading up Morris' campaign is Stephen Meyers, a young, but brilliant media mind, who is loved on for the team he plays for, and feared for the team he opposes. As the primary nears, Meyers receives a call from the campaign manager of the opposing team, who wants him to jump ship and come work for them. This sets off a firestorm of escalating events as loyalty is tested, trust broken, and scandal revealed, and soon, the fate of Meyers, Morris, and everyone else, is called into question.

The Ides of March is well thought out, and moves at a good clip. It's just that there doesn't seem to be any feel for the stakes. The first twenty odd minutes of the movie consist of Meyers and others talking about how Morris is THE man, the person who will lead the country back into the glory that it once basked in. That's all well and good, but we never really see the Morris they are talking about. All we see is a politician who makes impassioned speeches, which doesn't do enough to set him apart from his opponent. The film does pick up in the final act, when the shit hits the fan, and the running theme of hypocrisy really comes into play. The final ten minutes, which sees people forging ahead, having betrayed everything they valued, is really compelling. The rest of the movie, sadly, is not.

The actors, on the other hand, are aces!

Ryan Gosling follows up his brilliant work in Drive with an equally great, though supremely different, performance. Where Driver was cold, calculating, and quiet, Gosling's Meyers is smarmy, charming, and quite the little sleaze. The naivety of the character is the quality that ends up fucking everything up for everyone, and Gosling's does very well with that. It's not his most memorable performance, but it can in no way be viewed as a bad one.

Silver Fox For Office

George Clooney does well as the headstrong and stubborn Morris. There's clear shades of Obama in here, though I'd like to think that Obama didn't do the thing that... well, anyway. Phillip Seymour Hoffman turns in another strong, understated performance as Paul Zara, Morris' campaign manager and Meyer's boss. Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei do well as an intern that Meyer's romances and a reporter with a big story, respectively.

Director George Clooney (yes, it's one of those movies) does what he can, but that's not much. The direction of this movie is fairly stilted, with no real pizzaz or style to speak of. The movie plods along, waiting to get to the big reveal, only after of which it produces a pulse. The first forty-five minutes of this thing could have easily been condensed into twenty, and the film would be much stronger because of it.

But when it finds that pulse, it really finds it! Like I said, the last act is really good, painting a compelling picture of politics at its most sociopathic. The drive to win causes these people to turn their backs on everything they stand for, and to see them continue the masquerade in front of the gullible public is a truly sinister tableau. It's nice to see a political thriller treat politics like a game, brutal and unfair, because it's an aspect we never see. This comes shining through in the final act, and almost make the film worth seeing. But, the first two acts are just not up to the level of the last, and drag the movie down significantly. See the movie for the ending and the strong performances. Just be prepared for the slog to get there.


  1. This is entertaining even if suspense barely builds and pay-off revelations come with little surprise. Clooney, as a director, is also able to draw-out amazing performances from this whole ensemble cast. Great review my man.

  2. I get what you're saying - it can be slow and tedious at times - but I think I enjoyed it a fair bit more than you (just saw it last night). It's not overly compelling nor is it breaking any new ground, but it's solidly-made and no frills approach is something I can get behind. I didn't take issue with Clooney's character since I didn't feel that we needed to go any deeper into who he was. The point was that Stephen believed in Morris, and the particulars of Morris' beliefs (beyond the 'liberal' label) weren't all that relevant to the story.