Ah, politics. Just when you think all that can be said about their machinations, manipulations and motivations has been said, along comes a movie that makes you realize…you’re right.
There’s not too much wrong with George Clooney. He’s handsome, talented, nice, funny and has a conscience. And he’s very earnest. Maybe too earnest. Clooney’s newest film, The Ides of March, reflects its director/writer/producer’s ideology to the hilt, but, sadly, also carries the weight of his sincerity as it tries way too hard and delivers too little.
The Ides of March is a political “thriller” that puts way too much emphasis on the former and amps up the melodrama on the latter to create an oddly-toned movie about the behind-the-scenes maneuverings of a national political campaign. It starts out really well, with Ryan Gosling established as a young, smart, idealistic assistant campaign manager to a seemingly-perfect Democratic candidate for President (Clooney). But it doesn’t take long to figure out where this movie is going so you just sit back to see how it all plays out, because, deep down, you know you’ve seen this all before. All the characters are here, the jaded campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the nubile, young, pretty intern (Evan Rachel Wood), the crafty opponent in the campaign (Paul Giamatti) and the pitbull reporter (Marisa Tomei). Really the only thing missing was the crotchety old secretary to crack one-liners.
Still, I was willing to give it a chance. Gosling’s on-screen persona is so Robert Redford-like that you just can’t help but be drawn into his quiet magnetism. I was desperate to see a calculated, complex and riveting drama played out through his character. What I got, however, was a movie that gets too bogged down in its own simplistic ideologies and heavy-handed filmmaking. Clooney’s dramatic and sometimes cheesy direction is so over-the-top and melodramatic, I sometimes felt like I was watching a movie-of-the-week. What I really found myself wanting it to be was The West Wing. The script and dialogue made me long for Aaron Sorkin. It’s not a good sign when you find yourself wondering, in the middle of a movie, how much better it could have been if someone else had written it. Alas, Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon’s script doesn’t have Sorkin’s pop, imagination or complexities, so we are left with a movie that falls flat in so many ways.
It seems like I hated this movie—I didn’t. The Ides of March is far from a bad movie. There are strong performances across the board, it has a story that is easy enough to get involved in and you do find yourself wanting to see how it all plays out. But, in the end, there is just not enough there to satisfy the promise of what this movie could and should have been. George Clooney may not be perfect after all.