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Published on November 8th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie

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The Ides Of March Film Review: A Fresh Take On Politics

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Director: George Clooney.
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamati.

The Ides Of March provides a revealing insight into the world of politics. It unearths the sordid nature of the political class, the journalists and campaign mangers that reside on the periphery, and shatters the illusion that individuals can be saintly figures of greatness.

Stephen Meyers is a brilliant, young campaign strategist tasked with the challenge of helping Governor Mike Morris to become President of the United States. Morris has everything an ideal president would require. Instantly likeable, intelligent, thoughtful and charismatic, he is by far the best Democrat in the presidential race.

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) In The Ides Of March

Meyer’s boss, Paul Zara, is a heavily experienced and tactful campaigner. Dripping in ennui, he has seen most things in political life. His jaded appearance betrays a life-time of stress and the strain of constantly paying attention to every word and act that is uttered by those he is representing.

As the outside worlds of the media and the general public start to exert there influence, those involved in Morris’s campaign start to feel the pressure as they battle for votes. This stress is further strengthened as Meyers starts to reveals his weaknesses and simultaneously has an affair with the young intern, Molly.

‘Yet as Meyers discovers unpalatable truths about his favourite candidate a strange transformation occurs before our very eyes.’

The film expertly deals with politics in an interesting and arresting manner. For Meyers this is his first foray into politics with a candidate that he fully stands behind. A character that he believes is whiter than snow or at least this is what he publicly states to anyone that listens. Yet as Meyers discovers unpalatable truths about his favourite candidate a strange transformation occurs before our very eyes. His brightness and friendliness makes way for cold intelligence and a firm addiction to power.

Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) And Mike Morris (George Clooney) In The Ides Of March

As this metamorphosis occurs you are left wondering are we seeing the stressful environment of politics moulding Meyers or is it just simply his true character, which he has earlier hidden, beginning to show through the mask. Of course we will never know for certain.

‘This is ironic for someone who prides himself on honesty and character.’

Morris, someone already well-versed in how politicking works, is a mysterious, impenetrable entity. Even when something less than desirable comes to light – his inner character remains frustratingly aloof. With his abundant charisma and powerful rhetoric, coupled with his potent insight into human relations, it is easy for the public to fall for his seductive personality without him having to ever reveal himself. This is ironic for someone who prides himself on honesty and character.

Like with all politicians, image and appearance are the two most important things to Morris. Under the eagle eye of modern media scrutiny, one slip of the tongue, the utterance of one ill-chosen word or associating with the wrong person could mean the governor’s fledgling career at the top of the American political food chain is over.

Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) And Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) In The Ides Of March

Another aspect of The Ides Of March pays particular attention to is the corruption within American politics. In what is truly a bizarre, head-scratching system, votes are exchanged for prominent positions. ‘You give me this and in return you will get x, y and z.’ Nevertheless, it isn’t the only profession that is tarred. Journalism is also revealed to be self-serving as opposed to principled.

‘But if history has taught us anything it is that these characters are figments of a willing imagination.’

The Ides Of March is a lesson for those not familiar with politics but more importantly it is a lesson in humanity. The idea of people greater than us, those that encapsulate the very best of us without the drawbacks, the negative sides of what makes us human is very appealing to us. Perhaps someone, somewhere, out on the periphery of society is actually a saintly, messiah-like character. But if history has taught us anything it is that these characters are figments of a willing imagination. They simply do not exist and if they do, they are certainly not drawn to politics or the limelight.

However, perhaps the worst indictment of this political system and virtually every other political structure is the fact that integrity and honour have no place. Rarely do highly principled and commendable candidates ever reach the top echelon. Perhaps ultimately this is because like everything, political life is a numbers game and rarely do such people put themselves forward for these types of careers.

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) And Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) In The Ides Of March

Ryan Gosling delivers a fine performance as the bright, upwardly mobile, Stephen Meyers. Placed under tremendous pressure and out-thought by his rival, his transmutation is startling and his presence on-screen magnetic. Exuding a seductive charisma, Meyers exercises absolute control over others and this becomes more and more obvious as the campaign progresses.

‘For creating such a paradoxical and ultimately human figure, Clooney deserves great praise.’

The political foray by his father, Nick, has strongly shaped George Clooney’s desire to make this film. His Mike Morris is all about light and shadows. Morris controls all aspects of his image. He steps into the light when he wishes certain aspects to be seen yet his darker side is blurred, obscured. It resides only in the shadows and his commanding intellect and keen acumen when it comes to reading people means it stays there unrevealing. For creating such a paradoxical and ultimately human figure, Clooney deserves great praise.

Evan Rachel Wood’s Molly Stearns is a vamp-like personality. Keenly smart, strong yet vulnerable, like Morris, she is difficult to read. We are never sure of her motives and she is full of odd behaviour. Wood’s performance is very strong and in a sea of established actors, all the more impressive.

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) And Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) In The Ides Of March

Paul Zara, portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is a wonderful mix of jaded experience and reassuring calm in a maelstrom of uncertainty. Hoffman’s ability to imbibe his characters with seemingly effortlessness is a joy to watch. Likewise, his canny knack of blending in without ever having to leave subtlety behind plays perfectly on-screen.

Finally, Paul Giamatti’s Tom Duffy is compelling viewing. Full of shrewdness and a determination  to succeed at all costs. His tactical nous and stoical, somewhat philosophical, nature means he is a worthy opponent for the Morris group.

The Ides Of March is an unmissable film. Filled with talented, on-song, actors and a sharp, somewhat unusual script, the film manages to breathe fresh life into the all-too common world of politics.

 


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