Ed reviews 'The Ides of March'

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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