The Ides of March
Beau Willimon's low-simmer stage play "Farragut North" fails to come to a boil in this George Clooney-directed film adaptation. The reason is as simple as the brief limits of the source material; Willimon doesn't go far enough in dissecting flaws in America's media-infected democratic process. The author is content to keep the focus on predictable human failings of politicians--mainly infidelity. Inspired by Howard Dean's crash-and-burn run at the 2004 Presidential race, “The Ides of March” follows behind-the-scenes machinations of a Democratic presidential campaign. Forget that the media pulled the rug out from under Howard Dean, and not any act of adultery. Clooney plays presidential candidate Governor Mike Morris with all the ease and charm you'd expect from the polished Zen master of charm. Ryan Gosling plays Morris's campaign right-hand man Stephen Meyers. As the campaign’s overachieving press secretary, Meyers has drunk the Mike Morris kool-aid and loved every drop. Alongside veteran campaign organizer Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), 30-year-old Stephen is one of the best and brightest. But Steven's ego is a couple of sizes too big. This obvious sticking point comes into harsh relief when Stevens commits a double whammy of insolence by sleeping with a campaign intern (Evan Rachel Wood) and taking a secret meeting with Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the campaign manager for Morris’s Republican rival. Ironically, Steven’s mistakes have a way of cancelling one another out.
“The Ides of March” is entertaining even if suspense barely builds and pay-off revelations come with little surprise. Clooney’s character disappears into the background, but Ryan Gosling’s capable performance masks the oversight. The film’s overriding theme, that all politicians are corrupt, is too simplistic to support the estimable performances on hand.
Rated R. 100 mins. (B-) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)
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