Director: George Clooney
Stars: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Plot: A Democratic campaign worker has to decide where his loyalties lie amidst a battle that could decide the next American Presidency.
According to William Shakespeare, famous Roman dictator Julius Caesar ignored the sage advice to “beware the Ides of March” (a particular calendar date on the 15th of the month) before he was promptly stabbed to death in a conspiracy based on power and greed. With an all-star cast and an intriguing synopsis, you might not think that such a statement would apply here, but this same-titled film should be approached with a high level of caution.
Flavour of the year Ryan Gosling (seemingly omnipresent recently) stars as Junior Campaign Manager Stephen Meyers, who is part of Democratic Presidential candidate hopeful Mike Morris’ (George Clooney) campaign to win the party’s nomination vote for Ohio. The path to the White House appears to be clear – that is until Stephen is contacted by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), who is working for the rival Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell). Tom invites him to join Pullman’s campaign, as they have secured the support of Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright), a key figure in the political race.
Stephen finds himself trapped between his loyalty for Morris and the doubt that surrounds his prospects – he refuses the offer to defect, but has problems keeping the meeting secret due to the probings of New York Times reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei). Meanwhile, Stephen starts a clandestine relationship with senior intern Molly Stearns (Rachel Evan Wood), who is the daughter of Jack (Gregory Itzin) the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. However, she reveals a shocking revelation that could bring down Morris as a candidate and leave his election an impossibility.
The Ides of March is really the Ryan Gosling/George Clooney show. Despite the fact that Clooney’s role is so small it could be perceived as a borderline cameo, his character is a two-dimensional Democratic dream whose policies are rather fanciful (a two-year National Service and hey presto, you’re college fees are paid for!) and his Messiah-like presence in front of the camera is a touch too self-congratulatory. Gosling on the other hand is just as slick, in fact too much so. This type of character was all very well in Drive, but here he portrays Stephen in such a way as if he never for a moment has a crisis of conscience or that he has ever done a hard day’s work on a political campaign.
Philip Seymour Hoffman has little to do but plays Paul Zara with gusto. Marisa Tomei and Gregory Itzin - two superb supporting actors who should be getting meatier roles than these – are also underused. Of course, it’s all about Gosling, but the script lacks depth and drama, with little conflict except for a couple of shouty scenes which you’ll have seen on the trailer already anyway. The big reveal is also a let-down – the scene in which Molly tells Stephen her secret is done so haphazardly you’ll probably think you’ve missed something.
The Ides of March ticks all the political film cliché boxes, but fails to deliver on the promising trailer – which is quite fitting when you consider its subject matter.