Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ides of March (Rhoades)

“Ides of March” – a
Political Morality Tale

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Gather ’round, children, and I will explain the Ides of March. Yes, before moving to April, March 15th used to be the day that your dad’s income tax was due. However, the date first gained fame (or should that be infamy?) as the occasion upon which Julius Caesar was done in by a gaggle of his friends, stabbed in the back (as well as 22 other places) by the Roman senators who wanted to stop his political ascendancy. Among them was his friend Brutus (“Et tu, Brute?” he supposedly muttered).
In the new George Clooney political drama – aptly titled “Ides of March” – we find a presidential hopeful (Clooney, looking like a square-chinned Rick Perry/Mitt Romney clone) surrounded by his advisors.
Chief among the team of Pennsylvania governor Mike Morris (Clooney) are Steven Myers (Ryan Gosling), his whiz kid strategist, and Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), his take-no-prisoners campaign manager. People he trusts.
On the opposing side of the race is a candidate managed by veteran Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). Watching from the wings is Ida Horowitz (Marisa Tomei), a reporter with the New York Times.
This is a tale of idealism, betrayal, and dirty politics. Word is that Clooney – who co-wrote, directed, produced, and stars in this film – held off doing “Ides of March” until the enthusiasm for Barack Obama’s presidential win died down, for this cynical view of the political landscape is not one of Yes-we-can celebration.
“Ides of March” is currently waging its campaign with audiences at the Tropic Cinema.
In it, Clooney plays a progressive presidential candidate (replete with Obama-like posters), but Ryan Gosling takes the lead as the idealistic young staffer who wants to do the right thing – caught between his candidate’s public image and private vices. While the story is complex – exploring the themes of loyalty, ambition, and personal hubris – the film’s message is somewhat simplistic: power corrupts.
Stephen Meyers: We’re gonna be fine. We have to do it, it’s the right thing to do, and nothing bad happens when you’re doing the right thing.
Governor Mike Morris: Is this your personal theory? ’Cause I can shoot holes in it.
Stephen Meyers: Well, there’s exceptions to every rule.
Adapted from Beau Willimon’s play, “Farragut North,” this political drama is said to be loosely based on the 2004 Democratic primary campaign of Howard Dean (Gov-VT). Note: Farragut North is a Metro Station in the center of Washington DC’s lobbyist district.
This crash course in dirty politics may have its own self-portentous hubris, but George Clooney deserves kudos as a filmmaker. At its core a slick thriller, Clooney knows how to intercut widescreen bustle with jarring close-ups, keep the action moving, and light it like the old Hollywood masters. Even better, he knows how to use his own image as the film’s political candidate, not overplaying his hand, but offering up a political figure we can buy. Or can be bought.
Someone asked George Clooney why doesn’t he run for president? The actor responded, “As for running for president, look, there's a guy in office right now who is smarter than almost anyone you know, who's nicer and who has more compassion than almost anyone you know. And he's having an almost impossible time governing. Why would anybody volunteer for that job?" He added, "I have a really good job. I get to hang out with very seductive people. So I have no interest.”
In the end, “Ides of March” isn’t just a political thriller. It’s a morality tale.
[from Solares Hill]

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