They were so close. Ides of March is gripping at times, somber and thought provoking at others but when the core of the film is revealed, it’s hard to find comfort or care in its primary characters. Ok, I have to exclude Philip Seymour Hoffman from that generalization; his character and performance were the most true to life, which inherently doomed him in the film. The others, not so much.
Ides of March follows Stephen Myers (Gosling), a charismatic, energetic campaign organizer working to win the Presidential primary for incumbent Governor Mike Morris (Clooney). Leading such a harried campaign, there’s no time for relationships until Myers, quite surprisingly, strikes up a relationship with a staff intern, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood). When Molly seeks Stephen’s help with a sensitive issue from her past it only adds to the enormous pressure of leading the campaign. Sadly when it rains it pours for Stephen – along with the Primary of the century and Molly’s angst, he’s pursued by a smart and resourceful campaign manager for the opposition, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). Tom is a master of subterfuge and flirts offers of a place on the other side’s administration while feeding seeds of discontent about Stephen’s own staff. Caught between his loyalty to the Governor, his duty to help Molly and his own idealism about politics, Stephen traverses the rocky waters of the Capital Hill process while learning the true nature of the job and what he has resigned to let his life become.
Gosling (Half Nelson) is the spotlight role here. I’m making my first Oscar pick of the year by saying that he will get a nod (but not a win). Clooney (The Peacemaker) does average at best as Governor Morris. He appears more to be a walking headshot than a believable candidate. His running platform is filled with naÃ¯ve public pandering which you have to attribute to the script, not necessarily to him. Giamatti (Sideways) is ripe and passionate. Playing a seasoned veteran of the campaign game, you really get a feel for his characters position within the film and its’ portrayal as he manipulates Gosling’s character. Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen) gave a strong performance, but I question why she would take a role like this that only perpetuates her limited ability to play teen angst characters (even though here she’s supposedly 20). Super hot, manipulative like a teen — I expect and want more from such a fresh faced beauty. Marisa Tomei (Four Rooms) and Jeffrey Wright (Source Code) round out what appears to be a stellar cast on paper; the issue for them, and this film, is that the plot will cause audience rejection. You’ve got a great string of powerful performances throughout the film, but it’s lost in the idealism within its execution.
When screening audiences are laughing during a funeral sequence that is supposed to broody and heartfelt…you know you went wrong with the characters. ‘Ides’ gives you one solid performance to the next, but when the true nature and reality of the characters are revealed, you lose any interest in caring what happens to them and even more so about the eventual outcome of the people they play onscreen. It’s a shame, because some great performances may get lost in the mix on this one. Let’s hope moviegoers and Oscar voters can see through the subterfuge.
3 Stars Out of 5
The Ides of March is rated R for pervasive language. Running Time: 101 minutes