Ides of March (Rated R) 4 Stars10-26-11-movie-review.jpg

The Ides of March (101 minutes) is one of the early fall “prestige” flicks that I usually don’t have a whole lot of patience with. When a political film, based on a play (by Beau Williamson), does the awards circuit I expect to be bored. George “Facts of Life” Clooney takes the director’s chair for the fifth time, and I confess I would be more tolerant of the implied vanity if he had a lesser role in the film. While he doesn’t take up an unreasonable amount of screen time, he did cast himself as a presidential hopeful that almost everyone loves and admires.

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is a Junior Campaign Manager for Governor Mike Morris (Clooney). The Governor is in the middle of the Ohio Primary, competing against Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell) for the Democratic nomination.

When the film opens, Meyers is playing with podiums prior to a political debate. Following the debate, Pullman’s senior campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) persuades Meyers to meet with him. Meyers is unable to contact Senior Campaign Manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and in the absence of direction, curiosity drives him to the meeting. Unless you think Meyers is sort of shady, then ambition drives him to the meeting. Judging by the reaction of Zara later in the film, that is a very bad choice.

During the meeting, Duffy tries to seduce Meyers to the dark side of the Democratic Party, and Meyers compares his tactics to that of Republicans. Them are fighting words, and the meeting ends with Machiavellian laughter echoing over the hot wings. Also, Duffy ends the meeting with explaining that Meyers’ infantile approach to politics will inevitably turn into jaded cynicism. Watch Duffy help him with that!

Soon after Meyers’ expresses his undying loyalty to Morris and Morris’ ideals he gets to know intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood). Given the number of times she lies or otherwise misleads him, a smart politico would be asking to see some identification for proof of age, or would at least Google his sweet young thing. Since Meyers is fairly naïve (as becomes glaringly obvious later in the film) he elects to trust that the manipulative blonde is totally legal. Sucker.

Molly clearly likes older men, so it is no surprise when one older man in particular makes random late night/early morning calls to her personal cell phone. Too bad for her gentleman caller that Meyers is on the case. Molly makes no attempt to cover up the inappropriate nature of the call, and methinks she wanted to get caught. Or maybe she’s just that dumb. Given the events in the remainder of the film, I lean towards the latter.

Somewhere in there a New York Times reporter gets tossed into the mix. Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) dogs the Morris campaign managers for insider information. While Meyers’ believes that loose lips sink ships, Zara is far more willing to leak tidbits to the press. His leakage eventually inconveniences poor dumb Meyers who had unthinkingly confessed to meeting with Duffy (though it takes Meyers a bit of time to figure out the mystery of who told). Why everyone gets their panties in a twist over this one brief meeting seems a bit confusing, but I agree that it’s a nice contrast between how Molly is treated by Meyers over her non-mistake and how Meyers is treated by everyone else over his non-mistake. Too bad he doesn’t seem to appreciate any of the hypocrisy he is embracing.

Meyers spins out in fairly short order. With every scene his nostrils flare a bit wider, his eyes twitch a bit more, and his inability to accept the reality he has chosen to inhabit gets more obvious. Overall, this is an interesting political thriller that entertains more often than not.

Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.

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