Ides of March focuses on Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), an idealistic campaign manager who’d 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. Clooney sets up the themes of the piece before taking a right turn (story-wise) into different territory.
Richard: Mark, 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, with its great acting from Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman 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 and it becomes something darker and more interesting.
Mark: Richard, the movie had me from the opening scenes. Well-acted, great script; a smart and sophisticated film about power and politics. I knew there had to be a twist, but I liked it even before the twist. Personally, I didn’t find it dry at all, but I follow political campaigns the way that most people follow sports. But you’re right; once it becomes a cat and mouse game it really gets exciting.
RC: To me it feels like a sexed-up All the President’s Men, a movie filled with good-looking movie stars that still packs a serious punch. 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. What did you think of Giamatti and Hoffman?
MB: Brilliant, both of them! But don’t leave out Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood in smaller but crucial roles. Another thing about the movie that impressed me was that although the film was based on a play, it didn’t feel “stagey” as a lot of these adaptations do. Clooney really opened it up and at no time did I think I was watching what had once been a play. And I’ll put you on the spot — how many Oscar nominations do you think the movie will get?
RC: We’re looking at a few nominations overall and maybe a win for either Giamatti or Hoffman. They both reek of the backroom, the kind of guys who invisibly pull the strings. I also thought Clooney did some good work here. If his character leans any further left he’ll topple over, but it’s not a love letter to the left. If anything the movie levels the playing field between the Democrats and Republicans, suggesting they’re cut from the same cloth.
MB: The movie raises Clintonian ethics issues — can a politician be deeply flawed in his private life and yet be the most skilled and humane legislator in the field? And then it goes further to suggest that moral corruption is inevitable. How could I not love this flick?