Film Review: Ides of March

In the past there have been some pretty good films exploring political intrigue.  The Manchurian Candidate (the original), The Parallax View, The Candidate, Seven Days in May, Fail Safe and, of course, All the President’s Men. But all are more or less dated. The Ides of March, co-written, produced and directed by George Clooney brings the genre into the new millennium and pulls some world-class actors into the fold.

The story is pretty stock, especially as it obviously relates to politics of the last four or so years. The “good” candidate, the pragmatic campaign brains trust, the evil opposition, and hard lessons about the reality of bottomless pit American politics. Hope only springs from inexperience. The experienced are hopelessly jaded and their only expertise is winning. There are no limits to the art of winning.

However, the plot quickly degenerates to a moderately hokey tale involving dubious and implausible machinations. Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Paul Giamatti all shine and that’s part of the problem with this interesting but anemically written film.  Virtuoso actors left to ply their trade in an isolated fashion, not bringing together any thread that the audience believes.

Best scene:  A hulking black van backed into an alley. Inside, and unheard by us, the candidate talks to his head campaign strategist who then climbs out and lights a cigarette. Sometimes what you don’t hear is most powerful.

Worst scene:  The ever-present seduction scene, unchanged from hundreds of other renditions elsewhere. Yawn.

It’s an interesting film if you aren’t too much of a stickler for convincing plot. Excellent acting, most in a vacuum. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are worth the price of admission.

I give it four of five laconic Ryan Gosling stares.

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