Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Ides of March (Rating: A-)

I have been disappointed with a few George Clooney movies because I thought that those movies hit us over the head with left leaning political messages.  I was a little uneasy about watching "The Ides of March" because I thought that it would be more of the same.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  This movie is not about politics, but politicians and the campaign process.  Given the hotly contested Republican  primary that is taking place right now, it couldn't be more timely.  I like this movie for the same reason I liked Good Night and Good Luck;  The movie is really smart and knows its subject matter.  This film might be better than Good Night and Good Luck which was more of an ensemble piece, because this film creates a tension around one central character, played by Ryan Gosling.  He plays a naive junior campaign manager who quickly becomes corrupted when he gets in a little over his head in a political scandal.

I like that Clooney only plays a supporting character.  He plays a smooth politician who behind the scenes is a little less than holy.  We get to experience Clooney's character through the eyes of Gosling's character, who starts out so full of hope, but soon gets a few hard lessons in reality.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie.  I pretty much know that when he is in a movie that it is going to be a good film.

The expression "Ides of March" literally means middle of March, but it can also refer to the betrayal and assassination of Julius Caesar.  There is a whole lot of backstabbing that takes place in this movie.  The movie is rated R only for language, but that strong language is there to illustrate that behind the scenes politicians are tough bastards who aren't afraid to get their hands a little dirty.

The ending is an extended shot of an actor's face like in Michael Clayton.  It was a disaster in that movie and only barely works in this one.  It can get a little dull, but at least in this film it has more of a  point.

It seems to me that everything in this movie could apply to the current Republican primary race, but this movie is about Democrats.  Everything I saw in the film made me think of Republicans, so why isn't the movie about Republicans?  Either Clooney didn't want to play a Republican, or it was a deliberate decision to not infer anything about the people currently running for office.  It might have been fun to see Clooney play a conservative for a change.

I notice that a portion of the movie takes place in Kentucky, as do many Clooney movies.  Clooney is from Kentucky.

The movie makes a passing reference to "Operation Chaos."

Since George Clooney wrote and directed this film, I am starting to develop a new appreciation for his work. I might actually become a fan.

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