Ed reviews 'The Ides of March' 

click to enlarge George Clooney stars as a presidential candidate in the political thriller which he also co-wrote and directed.
  • George Clooney stars as a presidential candidate in the political thriller which he also co-wrote and directed.

3.5 stars; rated R

In the first few minutes of The Ides of March, we hear Governor Mike Morris, played compellingly by George Clooney, state publicly (and eloquently) that he is not a religious man. We hear him debate a same-sex marriage opponent fairly and directly. Whatever the subject, he answers clearly without quibbling. He presents himself so well that I could easily imagine someone with vastly different views voting for the guy because of his refreshing honesty. Oh, and there's also a low-key, evocative singer showcased in an early scene. He is Detroit singer Bob Mervak and, no, he doesn't have any recordings out yet. But I digress.

The Ides of March is a political thriller packed with wonderful acting. Clooney's Governor Morris, an aspiring presidential candidate, is actually a secondary character who remained offstage in Farragut North, the Beau Willimon play on which the film is based. Clooney also co-wrote (with Grant Heslov) and directed The Ides of March, which features a fine score by Alexandre Desplat.

The focus of the story is on Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), strategist for the campaign and right-hand man of campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Paul Giamatti is another key character, as is Evan Rachel Wood. Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright also appear, but they don't have much to do.

I loved the first hour of the movie. Everybody is so smart, the atmosphere is electric, it feels like we're getting a backstage look at the beginning of something important. Then the inevitable scandal happens and everything becomes depressingly typical. It's still well-presented - Clooney is good at creating an air of intimacy - but the whole movie seems to get smaller. Even with a juicy revelation near the end, it feels too ordinary for a film with such a promising beginning.


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What others are saying (11)

The Coast Halifax The Ides of March a powerful political thriller George Clooney directs a stellar cast, but Ryan Gosling shines by Matthew Ritchie 10/06/2011
Style Weekly Nasty, Brutish and Short Such are the careers of political campaign managers in "The Ides of March." by Wayne Melton 10/25/2011
Colorado Springs Independent Politics as usual: The Ides of March What if the hero has very few principles to begin with? by Scott Renshaw 10/06/2011
8 more reviews...
Charleston City Paper Cynicism rules in George Clooney’s The Ides of March In the abstract, director/co-writer George Clooney and regular collaborator Grant Heslov — working from Beau Willimon's play Farragut North — have an intriguing variation on surrendering-principles-to-the-dirty-game-of-politics narratives like The Candidate: What if the hero has very few principles to begin with? by Scott Renshaw 10/05/2011
Memphis Flyer Beware the Ides George Clooney's high-toned political thriller delivers less than it promises. by Chris Herrington 10/06/2011
Boise Weekly The Projector: Movies opening Friday, Oct. 7 Werner Herzog reveals ancient cave art; Ryan Gosling reveals his selfish interests to George Clooney; Hugh Jackman reveals his robotic boxing underdog; Henry Hopper reveals his love for Mia Wasikowska. It's all at the movies. by Garrett Horstmeyer 10/07/2011
Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week Higher Ground, The Ides of March and other film events around town. 10/06/2011
Creative Loafing Atlanta The Ides of March's political drama earns a vote of no confidence George Clooney's campaign film relies on superficial charms by Curt Holman 10/05/2011
East Bay Express Acting Nice The Ides of March and 50/50 benefit from top-notch performances. by Anders Wright and Bob Grimm 10/05/2011
Indy Week George Clooney's new election thriller, The Ides of March Three years into the Obama presidency, Clooney makes a movie about a Democratic candidate whose high-minded oratory belies someone who, when pressed, surrenders his ideals for the sake of political expedience and self-preservation. by Neil Morris 10/05/2011
Portland Mercury Worthy Candidates The Ides of March goes into the shadowy backrooms of a presidential campaign. by Ned Lannamann 10/06/2011

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