Monday, October 17, 2011

Don't "beware the Ides of March"

The Ides of march (from March 15 in the ancient Roman calendar; the day in 44 b.c. on which Julius Caesar was assassinated.

Obviously, the naming of the new George Clooney directed movie, The Ides of March, is not coincidental with the subject matter. The death of Julius Caesar was borne of a conspiracy and by its very nature was political. Ostensibly, he was killed because the senators feared the march toward tyranny and the end of the Senate. Ironically, it was his death that did just that. They compromised principles to do what they believed was in the best interest of the republic.

While there is no assassination in The Ides of March, there is plenty of political intrigue and the compromising of principles in the name of idealism.

Ryan Gosling's character Stephen Myers, a campaign manager for Clooney's character, governor Mike Morris goes into the campaign full of idealism and believing the man he is working for has that same idealism. Through the machinations of the film, the integrity of Morris and the political process is called into question and leads to Myers' loss of innocence. He is faced with the quandary of opting out altogether or scheming for what he perceives as the greater good. Does he make the right choice and how can it really be for the "greater good" if one compromises one's principles? Don't expect the movie to answer that question.

There's no "happy ending". Along with the fucked up political process it represents, the movie ends ambiguously.

When we start down the road of compromising and selling our soul, when do we lose ourselves?

The casting is good. Gosling is believable as a slick and confident pitch man for a candidate. If anything, he comes across as too slick and you have a hard time buying that he would have a crisis of conscience. Clooney is Clooney. Because of his ideas and charisma, you wish that he would actually run for office.

But the actors that steal the show are the vets, Paul Giamati as the opponent's lead adviser and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Morris' adviser. Would we really expect any less from a couple of Oscar winners? They have the unique talent to be perfectly cast in whatever they play because they are just that good. Jeffrey Wright is also outstanding.

Clooney is very clever in making the candidates in question Democrats. It removes a lot of the tendency by the Right to write off the movie as another example of Hollywood liberal propaganda. Clooney rightly sees the larger point that the problem is the process and not necessarily the political ideas involved. There is no moral high ground when it comes to behavior of the two major parties' campaigns.

This is by no means a "great" political thriller. It would not be mistaken for All the President's Men or The Candidate or even The Contender. But it is good and topical. Grade: B


wunelle said...

Sorry if this is a duplicate. It ate my comment!

Not that I blame Blogger for it. Just to say I haven't seen it but have been tempted. The cast really seems all-star, but another chance for politics to look bad seems, well, depressing. Still, I will probably see.

dbackdad said...

I think that's the point that Clooney is trying to make ... that it's all about politics any more ... and it's not about ideas. Unfortunately, I think this is the way it has always been. And I'm not sure we'll ever get past that.