Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ides of March - Movie Review

The Ides of March is a story that follows a behind-the-scenes look at a political campaign.  George Clooney plays Governor Mike Morris, a Democratic presidential candidate.  His campaign team centers around his senior manager, played by the PSH (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a junior campaign manager, played by Ryan Gosling. Hoffman is the veteran, and as a result is more cynical and jaded, where Gosling is young and idealistic and really believes in Morris.

On the opposing side, you have Paul Giamatti, the campaign manager for Miller's primary opponent.  You really don't see much of Miller's actual opponent, as that's really not the focus of the story.

Dirty campaigning and disillusionment ensue.  It's a surprisingly cynical film about politics and the process.  Marisa Tomei plays a reporter for New York Times and sums it all up in a few lines in one of her earliest scenes in the movie.  I'm not really going to get into the politics of the movie, as I'm not much of a political animal these days, but her thoughts echo my thoughts about politics quite a bit.

The first half of the movie isn't terribly interesting, but the great cast makes up for it.  There's something to be said for having a bunch of great actors and just letting them do their thing.  As I mentioned earlier, it felt like a behind the scenes look at a political campaign, and more of a political drama.  Once the movie hits about the halfway point, a few key things happen that make this movie really take off and it almost becomes a political thriller.  I won't really get into what happens, as I don't want to spoil anything.  Fortunately the trailer also does a good job of not spoiling anything.  It really helps coming into this movie clean.

When you have a powerhouse cast like this, you do expect the performances to be top notch and they don't disappoint.  They really stacked the deck here.  The only people missing were Daniel Day-Lewis and the JGL.  Paul Giamatti is more of a supporting role this time around, but was as effective as he always is.  You even have Jeffrey Wright show up for a few scenes.

Even though the movie centers around the campaign of George Clooney's character, it didn't feel like he was in it all that much.  You see him in a few debates and town halls, but he's really not involved much in the backstage dealings and such.  This is really more Gosling's film and I think he carries it very well.  It's another great performance by his, but there was something weird about his accent that threw me off.  You could hear a little bit of the voice he used in Crazy, Stupid, Love.  I don't recall his voice sounding like that before, so I'm not sure what's up with that.

There's a nice two man game between Gosling and the PSH and he continues to be one of my favorite actors.  I've never been much of a Evan Rachel Wood fan, but she really surprised me this time.  I think this is the best work I've seen her do.  The scenes with her and Gosling really worked for me and I almost wanted to see more of them together.

The Ides of March was directed and co-written by none other than George Clooney and I think this is his best effort so far.  I think he's been a little hit-and-miss as a director (Leatherheads?  Blech!), but he did a much better job here.  Again, I think the movie was helped by having such a great cast.  It's like having a coach that comes to a team that already has a bunch of great players and system in place.  You expect him to still do well.

It was co-written by Beau Willimon, and this is based off his play "Farragut North".  Grant Heslov also shares writing credits on this one.  You may recognize Heslov more for his acting work, as he doesn't have a lot of writing credits to his name.

Overall, I think The Ides of March is a pretty good movie.  It's a little slow at first, but the great performances carry this movie until the pacing picks up in the second half.  If you're looking for a good political drama, then look no further.

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