The Ides of March

PhotobucketHo hum drama about an idealistic Junior Campaign Manager who succumbs to dirty politics when his candidate’s election chances are threatened. Disillusionment with the political system is such a common theme, the subject could be its own genre. As drama, The Ides of March is respectable but as harsh critique on the political game, it’s about 100 years too late to be revelatory. Better yet, make that 200 years behind. Anyone who believes the road to the presidency was ever paved with truth and integrity might be amazed by what they see here. For everyone else, this is business as usual.

It’s pretty safe to say it has actor George Clooney’s ideology all wrapped up in it. He wrote, directed, produced and stars in The Ides of March. Clooney plays Governor Mike Morris, a charismatic politician that worships at the altar of the U.S. Constitution eschewing any sort of religion. But the script is less than equitable.  Apparently the story’s idea of fairness is to show how moderate Democrats must become deceitful devils in order to compete with the evil Republicans at their own game. So much for an even handed approach.

It’s clear that Clooney’s presidential hopeful is modeled after his personal beliefs. He’s glib, relaxed and always confident in his answers. On a live TV interview, Morris is questioned whether he would still oppose the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered. Shades of Michael Dukakis back in 1988 when he was posed that very same question! Clooney responds with a more emotional (albeit illegal) answer that many felt Dukakis should have given. Nothing like having two decades to craft your response.  Morris is trying to win the Ohio Democratic primary, but Clooney is delusional if he thinks his candidate would ever make it anywhere close to a Presidential primary in the real world. He’s too inflexible. End all war! No reliance on foreign oil! Free education for mandatory service in the military! No new cars with internal combustion engines! These are not open for debate and he’s not budging.  The character is so steadfast, it feels disingenuous.  Where’s the ambiguity and self doubt? However that isn’t even this tale’s biggest problem.

Surprisingly clichéd, the narrative is dull as a political exposé on what goes on behind powerful campaigns. Nothing really resonates much after it’s over. It’s biggest conceit is that the wheels of the political machine are greased with concessions and compromise. Shocking! Today the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators in 44 B.C. The title here points more to a betrayal of loyalty than of physical harm. There’s a particularly engrossing scene where Philip Seymour Hoffman addresses Ryan Gosling in the second half. As Senior Campaign Manager Paul Zara, Hoffman gives a riveting speech regarding loyalty. I wish more of the film had electrifying scenes like that. It’s as well written as anything I’ve seen in 2011. Paul Giamatti also bears a mention as the rival Campaign Manager for a competing Democratic candidate. He gives quite a performance as well. But those bright spots are rare examples of interest. As it stands, the perspective is just too insipid to make much of an impression.

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19 Responses to “The Ides of March”

  1. I have to say your review and two-star rating really come as a surprise to me! I’ve been hearing a lot of praise for The Ides of March until now, but you do make a strong point as to why you didn’t like the film so much. I’ve yet to watch it but after reading what you had to say, I’ll go into the theater with my expectations a bit lowered.

  2. I agree with fernandorafael. I saw so much praise online, and when I saw your two-star review, I nearly fainted! I wanted to see this one, but now, I’m not so sure.

    • Ha ha. Don’t faint! Maybe you’ll love it. I just had high expectations. To say you must compromise your principles to succeed in politics is an uninteresting point for a 2 hour movie to make.

  3. I was expecting better. No “wow” factor in this movie. Just, blah.

  4. This is entertaining even if suspense barely builds and pay-off revelations come with little surprise. Clooney, as a director, is also able to draw-out amazing performances from this whole ensemble cast. Great review. Check out mine when you get the chance.

  5. It’s interesting. I thought about using “cliche” in my own review but I didn’t really feel that, I just thought it had been done before. Which is basically the definition of cliche. So there’s that.

    I thought this was a well made film and I enjoyed it (more than you did it appears) but yeah, there’s absolutely nothing new or powerful here, which was a real disappointment.

  6. Will be interested to watch this – I followed the last U.S election somewhat closely (as much as a Brit could) using somewhat Ieft -leaning media outlets i.e. Daily Show, Real time (Bill Maher) and articles/snippets on huffington post.

    There appears to be a LOT of gamesmanship in US elections…from your review it appears George Clooney has firmly laid his cards on the table RE: his political views… Its a shame it hasn’t done anything extraordinary to really stand out..Will watch it all the same – great reveiw!

  7. It may not having anything new to say about politics, but that shouldn’t be your point of reckoning – because quite honestly, it never presents itself as containing something brand new to say.

    Of course, every “political film” will tell you politics are bad and the people inside it are corrupt. Why? Because that’s the truth.

    It’s not revelatory in the sense it reveals new information, but it is revelatory in its juxtaposition for interesting characters, brilliant actors, and ruthless storytelling.

    I was enthralled throughout.

    • Ah but how interesting it would have been if the film’s point was that politics isn’t as corrupt as you think. If the point was made intelligently, I would have preferred that innovative concept to this pedestrian one.

  8. Nice review Mark, I have seen a lot of blog post praising this film and your review highlighted all the fears I have had about how this film would be terrible. 😉

  9. Markus Robinson Says:

    Can’t believe you gave “Real Steel” a higher rating that “The Ides of March” haha. I obviously liked this movie way more than you did, but I also think George Clooney is a really good director so what do I know lol.

    • That’s because I found Real Steel more entertaining. The Ides of March was actually more predictable and that’s quite a feat because Real Steel was incredibly conventional. The battling robots made up for the hackneyed script.

      • Markus Robinson Says:

        No no no. With all due respect mark. And I don’t mean to compare the two because obviously they are of differing genres, but is “Real Steel” more entertaining and less predictable?! Real Steel is a movie that you can sit through for 5 minutes and you have pretty much seen the entire movie. The acting is light-years better in “The Ides of March” (and I know we don’t agree on that fact) and is sure to garner some nominations. And while the storyline of “The Ides of March” was somewhat conventional, the direction and the acting brought it up to a whole other level. “Real Steel” was battling robots and Jackman cashing in a paycheck, nothing more. Again I am defending “The Ides of March” more than I am putting down “Real Steel” (becasue it was what it was),

    • It’s kind of like your reaction to Take Shelter. I liked the acting, but was unimpressed by the overall film.

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