Clooney for President?

17 Oct

That all in politics is not as it seems is hardly breaking news. Alas, in the film The Ides of March, that’s exactly the theme. In George Clooney’s latest writing and directing effort, Ryan Gosling plays Stephen, the junior campaign manager for Presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney). Over the course of the week leading up to the Ohio primary, Stephen goes from devoted fan and supporter of Morris to, well, let’s just say he gets a reality check. Young but hardly naive, Stephen is a fast-rising player in the political arena, and his drive to get ahead and protect his candidate leads to some less than ideal decisions. As a result, Stephen’s boss, Senior Campaign Manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), begins to question whose side Stephen is really on: Morris’ or his own.

A taut political thriller, Ides of March doesn’t tell a completely new story, but its twist on a familiar theme is told well, with a top-notch cast that includes the aforementioned actors, plus the always reliable Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood. To his credit, Clooney (in his acting, writing, and directing) makes Morris a less than perfect candidate, but not a guy you can’t support. (Also notable is the irrelevancy of his political party.) Morris is a complex character, but he is not the focal point of the film. That would be Stephen, and as the real lead of the film, Gosling gives yet another great performance, his third of the year (after Crazy Stupid Love and Drive).

As election season moves into high gear, Ides of March provides an excellent and entertaining complement. It doesn’t make any grand statements about politics, or the people behind the scenes, but no matter. The action moves swiftly and the film overall is engaging. I’m giving the film a B+ … and despite what we see here in the character he plays, I’m also giving Clooney my vote (but then, I’m already biased).

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