Rating: 7 out of 10
Spoilers! Be warned!
I’m growing impressed with George Clooney’s intelligence behind the camera. All of the films he has directed so far contain excellent performances and effective storytelling and “The Ides of March” is no different. This time he’s targeting the story of how a presidential campaign runs behind the scenes and the decisions that are made in the name of sitting in the highest office in the world. It’s an interesting topical choice for Clooney considering we are inundated every single day by CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Drudge Report, newspapers, magazines, and word of mouth about the ongoing tactics, both positive and negative, of presidential politics. The performances are spot on throughout. Ryan Gosling exudes a maturity well beyond his years, Clooney almost sounds presidential in his speeches, and both Seymour-Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are excellent in supporting parts. If there’s any weak link amongst the characters, it would have to be the way too worldly 20 year old political groupie played by Evan Rachel Wood. She seems out of her league here acting alongside Gosling and her character is extremely unlikeable. However, Clooney’s storytelling seems to convey she should have our sympathies. And, believe me, I understand that a young and naive girl can be easily persuaded by powerful and charming men. But, her character is the daughter of the head of the Democratic Nation Committee. It’s hardly understandable that she would be so impressed by political workers when she’s spent her life around them. So, when she goes to dinner with Gosling after barely meeting him and less than 1 minute later says, “I’ve been wanting to fuck you for a long time,” it became difficult for me to feel like she’s some sort of victim.
That aside, the behind the scenes decisions are excellent. We are giving a bird’s eye view of what it’s like to make daily decisions to please the most amount of voters and not sell your soul. I particularly like the way that different campaign managers interacted with each other. You learn real quick that the only thing that matters is serving the candidate’s self-interest and self-preservation no matter the cost. If you can’t do that, it’s not the business for you. Is this the best picture material that has been advertised? No. Why? This isn’t exactly shocking territory. Politicians cheat on the wives? No way! Sleep with interns? You’re kidding! Run negative campaigns that point at an opposition’s wrongdoing that never happened? I remember “Swift Boat Vets and POW’s for Truth” that was run against John Kerry that literally made him out to be a bad guy for serving two tours of duty in Vietnam. So, if you’re looking for something new here, you won’t get it. But, if you’ve always been curious what happens behind the closed doors of a campaign, this is about as good as you could get.