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The Ides of March (2011)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Of all the interest The Ides of March has to offer, the title is among the most interesting of them. The reference to political leaders and assassinations is the knee-jerk and most obvious reference, yet the film turns out to be much more nuanced and intelligent in its several other overlaid and interwoven references. Mixing idealism and betrayal with depth, shallowness, innocence, corruption, sincerity, artifice, shrewdness, and candor, the film explores the clash between pursuing a better world and getting caught up in pursuing a better world. Its intensity and intricacy make for a compelling jaunt through the back alleys of an election season.

Stephen Meyers is press secretary for the presidential election campaign of Gov. Mike Morris. Well, that puts it too mildly. He is totally and idealistically bought into the candidate, and even more so to the ideas behind the campaign. Tom Duffy runs the opposing campaign, and the two are fighting for a certain senator’s endorsement. Personal ambition muddies the water and, as events proceed, we see clear examples of how cutting political deals tends to collide with idealism. The main question becomes: How much of Stephen’s idealism will survive the collision? Running time: 101 min.

The complex web of relationships that drives Ides is compelling in the personal pressures it creates, and the actors do quite well at embodying those pressures. In addition to questions about the survivability of idealism, the film asks about loyalty: How do we know we have it from another, and on what basis will we conclude disloyalty? What is fair game to sacrifice for a greater good? If life disillusions us from aspects of our idealism, what shall we do with the rest of it? What is fair game to sacrifice for our own good? Along the way, what dies and who kills it? Beyond questions like these, it certainly raises questions about the inner workings of political power (although we must guard against those questions growing to make us conspiracy theorists).

The filmcraft is very good. George Clooney’s direction creates a well-pitched ethos of passion and intrigue, making the characters’ various crafty moves and oversights palpable. Ryan Gosling’s Stephen Meyers embodies an smooth and credible arc of transformation across the film. The intricate plot enhances the film’s intensity, with Paul Giamatti’s and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s crusty hardness adding great emphasis. The Ides of March is very much worth the time, and most definitely worth it for those with a political interest.

Sexual references and activity figure heavily into the plot, but there is no onscreen nudity. Heavy strong language, smoking. Very intense emotions and personal trauma, including a visit to an abortion clinic.

  • Director: George Clooney
  • Screenplay: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon based on Willimon’s play “Farragut North”
  • Leads: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
  • Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael
  • Music: Alexandre Desplat


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