In “The Ides of March,” George Clooney (who also directs) plays a Democratic Party candidate. He’s the kind of guy who would make the top of Bill O’Reilly’s head pop off. He’s pro-ecology, anti-oil. He wants to tax the rich and legalize gay marriage. If he leans any further left he’ll topple over. Although Clooney has spoken out about many of these topics in real life, hasn’t made a left wing fm. Instead he’s made a warts and all political movie.
The movie focuses its story on Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), an idealistic campaign manager who will do anything to win, as long as he truly believes in the candidate. He is devoted to Governor Mike Morris (Clooney), a candidate in the Democratic primary. The first hour is spent getting into the campaign, learning the machinations of a big league primary run, the behind the scenes. Clooney sets up the themes of the piece–loyalty, ethics and the hard edge that comes from playing in the bigs–before taking a right turn–story wise, not ideologically–into different territory.
I’m not going to give away the twist, but it is really then that the movie picks up steam. The first hour is good stuff, great acting from Paul Giamatti, and P.S.H. and a fascinating, if occasionally dry look at life in the political fast lane. Then comes the blackmail, the meetings in darkened stairwells and double crossing journalists.
Gosling impresses as he makes his way from idealism to stark realism, and Clooney looks like he was born to sit in an oval office, but it is the supporting cast who really shine.
Giamatti and Hoffman reek of the backroom. They play opponents but are cut from the same cloth, men who are two steps ahead of everybody else in the room.
“The Ides of March” takes a bit too long to get to the game changing moment, but when the acting is this good, it’s worth the wait.