The Ides of March
I loved watching this movie. It seemed so hardcore-politico and showed us both the bright forward energy and the seamy underside of power politics in America today. The casting was just superb.
George Clooney looks Presidential. Give him rousing speeches like this and he’ll probably have some write-in votes when the real election arrives. Of course, this film is about competing in the Ohio Democratic primary, so all the speeches are, well, strongly along Democratic party lines. The Republicans are portrayed as the heartless evil villains, and that’s on their good days. So know going in about that slanted perspective.
Clooney’s campaign chairman is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who may not have been convincing as a major league manager in “Moneyball,” but he is thoroughly convincing in this role. So is his counterpart, the campaign manager for the “other” candidate, played by Paul Giamatti. To watch these two battle wits and strategies was a guilty pleasure, mainly because their pragmatism so quickly morphed into cynicism, ready for crass manipulation to strike at any moment.
The bright-eyed idealist (you knew there had to be one) is Evan Rachel Wood, the young staffer who is a little too eager to please, but watch out, if she turns on you she could subvert the whole process. The up-and-coming assistant campaign manager is played by Ryan Gosling, who learns so quickly that we watch him become calloused before our very eyes, turning to the Dark Side of heartless deceit with a jaundiced artistry so smooth it’s scary. Marisa Tomei shows some nice depth in a small role, as the beat reporter for a big-time newspaper who pries and trades favors and smiles and conjectures and before long she’s a player, too, and you cross her at your own risk.
To say anything about the plot would spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that the guiding principle seems to be that everybody has two choices: either stick up for their principles and go down in flames, or compromise and make back room deals that are different from public pronouncements and chalk it up to the price of succeeding.
It feels real. And depressing. Even if it isn’t a true story, it plays like it could easily be. And as we round into the high season of national campaigning, this may be a useful reminder that nothing is quite as it seems.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas