Clooney enters political race, but plot is unconvincing

Strong acting and Ryan Gosling carry smart look at how U.S. political campaigns are run

George Clooney stars and directs his first foray into political cinema in The Ides of March

 

 

There is a long tradition of politically themed movies out of Hollywood, from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to the more cynical, Clinton-flavoured Primary Colors. It was inevitable that George Clooney would enter this cinematic race, and his ominously titled The Ides of March combines Obama “change we can believe in” rhetoric with the rat-like machinations of Machiavelli.

Not content just to direct and co-author the script, Clooney also stars as Mike Morris, a sitting governor who is running in the Democratic presidential primaries. The charismatic Morris, a bold idealist who champions progressive liberal ideas, is in a critical battle to win Iowa. But he is up against a tough opponent in a close fight, and both men are desperate to get the endorsement of Ohio’s Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright).

Morris has a small army of foot soldiers led by two men: campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a whip-smart strategist named Stephen Myers (Canada’s Ryan Gosling). Myers, young and almost painfully idealistic, is a true believer when it comes to Morris. Zara, a campaign veteran, respects their candidate, but is wise enough to know that ultimately he’s just another politician. With that as the setup, it’s no surprise when Myers learns that his hero has feet of clay.

Soon after he finds himself in the middle of underhanded campaign infighting that will challenge everything he believes in – including his own moral code.

Ides is very smart about how political campaigns are run, from the day-to-day strategizing to the courting of the media, from the challenge of getting their candidate’s message out, to deflating or deflecting the posturing of their opponent. Where Ides falls short is with its predictable and unconvincing plot, which ultimately collapses in on itself and offers clichés we can’t believe in.

Although not as compelling as the earlier Clooney-directed dramas Syriana and Good Night And Good Luck, this is a feast of fine acting. Hoffman is always fantastic, and here he’s nicely paired against another great character actor, Paul Giamatti, who plays the campaign manager for Morris’s arch rival. Oscar winner Marisa Tomei is fine as a hard-nosed reporter. Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler, Across the Universe) adds nuance to the role of the vulnerable campaign intern. And Clooney, unsurprisingly, embodies charm and gravitas. But this is ultimately Gosling’s film, and he carries it with a harrowing intensity. M

Just Posted

FILM REVIEW: Wild creatures help tame prisoners

Robert Moyes offers up his take on The Mustang, screening at local theatres now

B.C., local shorts making waves at Pacific Rim Film Festival

CineVic’s seventh annual Short Circuit festival spotlighting films made close to home

Mathieu Poirier: Beers beat wines for pairing with food

Complexities, ingredients and styles offer more diverse choices, writes Monday beer columnist

Musical joy emerges from fiddling and singing

Joy of Life Festival at Alix Goolden Hall on May 3 and 4 offers both for audiences

Fearing is loving life in West Coast La La Land

Award-winning blues-folk guitarist singer/songwriter playing Sidney show on May 3

REVIEW: Once ‘The Foreigner’ arrives, everything changes

Funny and touching, Chemainus Theatre’s new play will leave you in stitches

Making meditative music for mental health

Calgary duo to perform in James Bay as part of Home Shall be Here tour

Peninsula Players unravel mystery for coming production

Murder on the Nile hits the Mary Winspear Centre stage in May

Just looking, or buying? You can find that perfect art piece at Sidney show

Saanich Peninsula Arts and Crafts Society holding Spring Show April 27-28 at Mary Winspear Centre

Peninsula grandmothers salute Roaring ’20s fashion

May 3 event in Sidney benefits Grandmothers Helping African Grandmothers

Most Read