Written by: George Clooney, Beau Willimon, Grant Heslov
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei
Doing a job for the potential of advancement and the remuneration are a given, but when doing it because of passion in the vision can add a level of fuel that can power through the most difficult moments. Something that has powered even individuals to get behind political candidates as the promise they display comes with its purity, up until it inevitably does not. The harsh but true lesson of The Ides of March and through its slick storytelling and an abundance of backstabbing, it nails down its message clearly.
Working for the Mike Morris (George Clooney) campaign for the presidency of the United States, Stephen (Ryan Gosling) continually is heralded as a media genius. With the primary getting heated as Iowa and North Carolina hang in the balance for who will represent the Democratic Party in the General Election, Stephen gets put in a compromising situation and must maneuver carefully to end up on top.
The success found in The Ides of March despite its more dated aspect comes from the accurate ride of there being absolutely no purity in the world of politics. This gets seen through the campaign workers, but also through the candidate of Mike Morris. Through most of the narrative, the man hangs around almost as an ideal, and one Stephen ardently believes in. We’ve all been there when following politics where a particular candidate seemingly spouts everything you believe, but inevitably it comes out some if not all of it stands in the name of nonsense. You would think someone like Stephen who obviously knows the ins and outs of DC politics would know better, but the fact that he gets sucked into these feelings makes the machinations of what occurs that much harsher.
When looking at the archaic system in place in order for someone to become the president of this nation, this film seeks to take someone who has upstanding ideals like Morris and demonstrate how he cannot avoid being drug through the mud just like everyone else. There are moments where Morris attempts to take a stand and even states specifically the areas he’s already bent when promising not to from the beginning. However, the film has no problem displaying that having these ideals may be admirable as a whole, but when it comes to winning a large and impactful political race, it does not matter at all. A harsh realization but certainly one that reflects what this political system has always represented.
What allows this feature to stand out compared to others tackling the same subject matter comes from the focus of the story lies with the campaign workers and the amount of influence they have in the big decisions of these candidates. It becomes a game of maneuvering between the shady areas and who can survive getting burned by the other. This occurs not only with the opposing teams but also within the individual campaigns as well. Trust means so much but also so little depending on the person and how much they want to succeed in the world of politics. Stephen becomes the entryway to show all of the deceit and the way he progresses as a character throughout says plenty of what the film wants to state overall, which also gets boosted by a strong Ryan Gosling performance.
Consistently putting in strong work, Gosling delivers once again giving a layered performance with a bit more bombast than usual. He turns up the charm when necessary, shows a level of desperation and as his character progresses, Gosling displays the “dead inside” getting right at the heart of where the narrative wants to conclude. Everything in this story runs through Gosling but the incredible supporting cast, which includes the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, and Jeffrey Wright continue to add intrigue to the story and plenty of complications leading to some big decisions needing to be made.
Stepping in as the director and the man being idolized, George Clooney shows he knows how to adequately direct a feature. He has been hit or miss with his efforts behind the screen but the sharp nature of this feature does well in establishing these characters and the momentous nature of all their decisions. Some things remain unspoken but obviously referenced. Clooney seeks to lift the veil of the corruptness of DC even if he puts himself as the character who essentially gets burned in the process. Tearing down the fabric, even with the most ideal candidate out there.
Fiercely entertaining and yet another strong indictment on the world of politics in Washington D.C., The Ides of March hits all the necessary notes when telling its story. It nails the brutal nature of these backroom meetings and how politics and media do remain an everlasting and toxic relationship filled with parasites. The film leaves the audience with plenty to think about, but most importantly, it serves as a reminder to those who get too caught up with candidates thinking the one they support is somehow different. It takes a certain compromise of character to succeed in this realm and it eventually will get everyone.