By: Oberst von Berauscht (Two Beers) -
Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is assistant campaign manager for Democrat Mike Morris’ (George Clooney) run in the primaries for the party’s presidential nomination. Stephen is smitten with the populist Morris’ rhetoric, and in spite of his skepticism now feels that he is supporting a candidate that will be a real agent for change. While fighting desperately to break the dead heat between Morris and political rival Ted Pullman, he stumbles into an unfolding series of events which threaten not only to derail the campaign, but also his burgeoning career.
One of the most important aspects of the election process is that it allows for the peaceable turnover of government officials without resorting to violent acts.
Above: Democracy in action
Ok, so it isn’t perfect, but it is what we’ve got. The Ides of March is a movie about trust, paranoia and most of all backstabbing within the political process, a story as old as civilization. Ryan Gosling is fascinating to watch as he undergoes the transformation from idealist to jaded strategist. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are equally devious as rival campaign managers who are willing to burn any bridge to move their candidate up in the polls.
It is George Clooney however whose studied performance is perhaps the most compelling. Early on the only information we know about Mike Morris is what we see of him chewing the scenery during political debates, speeches, and interviews, and gradually we are made privy to Mike Morris the man. And that is what is most important to know. Mike Morris may have some great ideas about the direction of the country, but he is prone to the same character flaws as any mortal man. The Ides of March makes the point that campaigning as we know it today is a process of deification which no candidate can possibly live up to. In doing this it creates a poisonous atmosphere which brings out the worst traits in everyone, where any small error or omission can end a career.
I’d write a joke here… if the whole thing was a little less goddamn depressing
While The Ides of March is technically a very accomplished movie, with great performances, fantastic writing, and something to say, it falls short of greatness. Maybe it is because the filmmakers present the problem with politics and fail to provide any solutions. No, there are plenty of very successful films which do that. It is almost as if something is missing… Would any anthropomorphic internet memes care to comment?
Hmmm, now that you mention it…
Warning : Spoilers Follow
The real problem is the film’s ending. In the last shot of the film, Stephen Myers is getting ready to be interviewed about the events which led to a major change in Mike Morris’s campaign leadership. Minutes prior he made a deal using blackmail as leverage which forced Morris’ hand. And then, the film just ends, which implies that Ryan Gosling’s character has become a cog feeding the machine. I take issue here, as it doesn’t feel like the character created by Gosling would have done this. The Stephen Myers I envisioned felt like a burning fuse about to explode. I’d have ended the film with the same exact shot, but instead Myers would have a realization that he is one step away from becoming everything he hates, and takes the opportunity of live television to deliver a simple, cathartic sentence of dialog which burns like the embers of a stoked fire. With a title like The Ides of March, it would also have completed the Shakespearian allegory by delivering the final deathblow to Morris, the film’s Caesar.
A powerful movie, but I like my version better
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when Ryan Gosling’s face goes all Ryan Gosling, and you have to check to make sure your girlfriend isn’t paying attention. (of course this would never happen to me)
“Isn’t that right honey? Honey… Honey?”
Take a Drink: anytime Clooney gives a speech
Down a Shot: for every element of this movie you can compare with the current campaign season (please don’t, you’ll die)