By Caitlyn Collins | October 6, 2011
Director: George Clooney
Writers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella
Here’s a list of names: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Max Minghella. This is a list of some of my favorite actors, but more importantly, it’s the bulk of the cast for Ides of March. As director, writer, producer and actor, George Clooney is the film’s jack-of-all-trades. While Clooney’s character is what ties the story together, the real focus is on the transition of Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) from kind-hearted, idyllic staffer to conniving, cynical campaign manager.
Ides of March follows the campaign of Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) as he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination against Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell). Both Democratic hopefuls have veteran campaign managers that know all there is and more about what it takes to work on a presidential campaign; Morris’ being Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman)’ an overweight, high-strung chain smoker. Stephen loves working for Paul, but especially for Morris. At the age of 30 he has experienced multiple political campaigns, but doesn’t seem to have been hardened by any of them. He’s just as bright and hopeful as the bounty of young interns working for Morris.
As certain events take place, a chain reaction occurs that changes Stephen at his core, revealing that not all are meant to embark on the campaign trail. Clooney as director is able to simultaneously convey the whirlwind of chaos that makes up a political campaign while narrowing in on just a few key people in both the story and camera shots. Ides of March is full of close ups and quiet pauses, building a sense of discomfort that is felt by not only the characters in the film but also the audience itself.
The mood of the film shifts dramatically as various bonds of trust begin to break. Stephen, Paul and Ida (Marisa Tomei) are out for a drink in a hotel bar after one of Morris’ debates with Senator Pullman. Ida, a reporter for the New York Times, wants Stephen and Paul to pass along juicy tidbits her way, to which they politely decline. The feel of the situation is good-natured, even fun, but the relationship sours when Ida attempts to blackmail Stephen.
Stephen begins to lose his political innocence after being invited to a clandestine meeting with Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), Pullman’s campaign manager. Despite knowing he shouldn’t do it, he feels compelled to go and see what Tom wants. Another rendezvous proves to be just as perilous, this one with one of the interns, Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), when she and Stephen meet for a drink. One evening turns into another until Molly receives a late night phone call that catalyzes the chain of events that follow. Secrets are revealed, lives are lost and Stephen transitions into a hardened, cynical bastard.
Ides of March, which is brilliantly cast and acted, tackles the huge political issue of trust. Can we as voters and citizens really trust the politicians that stand before us and vie for the highest office our country can offer? Is it possible to find a balance between naïveté and cynicism? The film isn’t so much about partisan political views. While it follows the primary campaign trail of two democratic hopefuls, few actual views are espoused. In fact, several scenes are filmed with little dialogue, letting the actions of each character convey the situation. This gives it the feel of a dramatic play; the screenplay is based on Beau Willimon’s Farragut North.
I recommend Ides of March to anyone remotely interested in politics. Or seeing an outstanding cast on screen.