Sometimes you can tell by a trailer alone that a film will be fantastic, this is certainly the case with The Ides of March. I am sure that a large constituent of people dismissed this film solely because it was directed by George Clooney or because it was a political film, however, those who instantly disregarded this film are missing out on something special. The Ides of March is an honest film about the deceitful and theatrical world of political performance and the unforeseen effects such illusions of normalcy have on the private lives of those involved. It is a film so intertwined with the desires and beliefs of each character shown that is becomes almost impossible to choose a character that you like, or can even tolerate. It is clear from the onset that we are to side with certain individuals, but even with this information, the viewer cannot help to disdain their involvement in unethical endeavors, even if they are simply doing so to survive in the Darwinian inspired landscape of American politics. I know those past few sentences seem like incoherent ramblings, yet it is the best I thing I could provide to even begin to explain the intensity of this film.
The film centers mostly on the actions and experiences of Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) a up and coming speech writing prodigy for the democratic governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) who is seeking the candidacy of president. Myers is keen at his job as in a major factor in assuring that Morris receives the nod from his party, despite facing tough competition against a senator named Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell). Assisted by weathered political adviser Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) the Morris campaign is invincible and even has the assistance of the media via New York Times writer Ida (Marissa Tomei). Everything seems set to work brilliantly, until Myers receives an unusual call from the competing campaigns adviser Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) requesting that they get lunch and discuss things. Myers is justifiably suspicious but agrees to meet with Duffy regardless. When he engages in this meeting, he quickly realizes his mistake, as Duffy attempts to recruit him to Pullman's campaign. Upset and confused Myers leaves the restaurant and decides to take up a dinner invitation from one of the interns for the Morris campaign. The young girl Myers has dinner with is one Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) whose father heads the Democratic National Committee. Regardless of the blatant problems with sleeping with Stearns, Myers decides to pursue a relationship with her because he finds her exceptionally intriguing. Their romance seems to be probable until they are together and Myers accidentally picks up a call for her from Morris. Realizing the inherent issues in his discovery Myers demands that Stearns ceases all contact with the governor. However, this request is not simple given that Stearns has become pregnant as a result of her encounter with Morris. This all comes in the face of the Morris campaign discovering Myers recent meeting, which leads to his removal from the campaign. His removal is quickly trivialized when it is discovered that Stearns has overdosed on prescription drugs, one that she received after the realization that her recent abortion was more about Morris's political image than her own comfort. Myers seizes this opportunity, with some emotional turmoil, and uses his knowledge to regain access to the Morris campaign, in a backroom shadowy scene that is reminiscent to Network. The film then closes on Myers reengaging in the Morris campaign with a new look in his eyes; one that is a combination of disillusionment and disdain for all that is political.
I mentioned the film being an incredibly personal look at the effects of politics on individuals, which perhaps helps to explain the uncomfortable detachment I felt as a viewer. It helps truly elucidate the impossibilities of any political figure truly representing the ideals of every individual, because what is relevant to one person may completely illogical or counterintuitive to another. Take for example the candidates desires to win over the Democratic senator Franklin Thompson's (Jeffery Wright) nod of support. Both realize that the endorsement of his voters, if only verbal, could be the single factor in influencing the actions of the remaining election. However, they also realize that in order to gain such support they must be willing to provide a substantial offer in return, in this case cabinet positions. It may seem as though Thompson's actions are conniving and dishonest, however, the simple fact is that he is concerned with his future in politics, which rest on assuring his place in a political position. Similarly, Myers reacts to the announcement of Stearns pregnancy with little joy and, in fact, much disdain. Myers is justified in his concern, because as he notes a politician one can get away with pretty much anything, but sleeping with interns is the obvious exception. Myers is reacting out of concern for Morris's political image, which inevitably means his future employment. In an idea situation Myer's would prefer what is best for Stearns, however, politics muck up everything and often have very dire and fatal results. The film shows how quickly politics concerning the repressed on a large scale disappear simply because each individual has an insurmountable amount of ulterior motives.
The Ides of March is yet another movie from an outstanding year of filmmaking, to call it middle of the road would be true for 2011, yet if it were released in any other year, it would be one of the best movies of the year. Grab a copy and watch it, it is an intensely real film experience.