George Clooney is a man who has left so many hearts throbbing in his wake it’s frankly quite surprising he hasn’t been convicted of some form of assault. The American […]
George Clooney is a man who has left so many hearts throbbing in his wake it’s frankly quite surprising he hasn’t been convicted of some form of assault. The American (of Greek descent) exploded onto the scene in the über-popular TV medical drama ER and forged a fine filmic career for himself (despite pausing briefly at one point to don a nippled Batsuit in Joel Schuhmacher’s Batman & Robin).
As a director, Clooney has grown in confidence gradually, adapting a Charlie Kaufman penned script for his debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), then following it with the effortlessly stylish black-and-white historical drama Good Night, and Good Luck (2005). His 2008 college football comedy Leatherheads was widely seen as a bit of a stumble, but provided evidence that he was willing to expand his horizons and step out of his safety zone.
The Ides of March returns the director to the relative comfort of politically themed drama. The story (adapted from a play entitled Farragut North) of a governor, Mike Morris (Clooney), whose campaign to be the primary Democratic candidate for the US presidency is heading towards a make-or-break ballot, is perhaps not the most thrilling backdrop on paper. Although it echoes events of recent American political history (namely the election of the current US President and charisma-machine Barack Obama), it is a plot that risks alienating the less politically-savvy multiplex patrons.
Clooney’s solution? Cram his cast so full of acting talent that the poster art director must have openly wept at the task of doing it justice. As the protagonist Stephen Meyers, he cast the incomparable Ryan Gosling – arguably the most sought-after actor in Hollywood at present. The actor-director and Gosling are supported by the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Max Minghella (read it through again, if you need to).
Gosling’s idealistic young campaign staffer is essentially the protégé to experienced campaign manager Paul Zara (Hoffman). Meticulous in their work and confident of the governor’s success, they make preparations for the crucial vote in the state of Ohio, engaged in a constant battle of wits with the opposition’s campaigner-in-chief Tom Duffy (Giamatti). But when the role of a young intern Molly Stearns (Wood) becomes compromised and the campaign duo’s relationship hits the rocks (hard), Gosling’s prodigious promoter gets a few hard lessons in the art of playing dirty.
While many admirers may simply regard the admission price as fair trade for an hour and half of Ryan Gosling to gawp at on a large screen, Clooney’s film more than holds its own in the key areas. His direction is as assured as one could hope for, and the swoon-merchant lead actor is backed by a fine ensemble of talent who prove just as transfixing as the drama unfolds. While assured, Clooney never takes particular artistic liberty with this project, and it would not be wholly unfair to say that he may have missed an opportunity to make something truly remarkable in this sense. Wherever it leads him next, however, there is little doubt that The Ides of March is a thoroughly watchable film that Clooney and co. can be rightly proud of.
The Ides Of March
Dir: George Clooney
George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella.
Run-time: 101 mins
Written by James Erwin, standing-room-only writer