The Ides of March reviews

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Re: The Ides of March reviews

Postby dws1982 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:51 am

I didn't like this one so much. I didn't think there was any narrative drive to it--the double crosses were interesting enough, but they didn't add any richness to the proceedings. And I'm not someone who thinks that every character has to be relatable or likable, but it was a pretty big chore to sit through two hours with these characters. George Clooney's smugness is just too much for me. I never saw how his character could be the type of person who would inspire (and then disappoint) Ryan Gosling's character so much. I spent the whole two hours hoping to see him go down. Surprisingly, for me, Phillip Seymour Hoffman emerges as best-in-show, as a world-weary seen-it-all campaign manager. If this movie gets a single Oscar nomination (and I don't think it will, except for maybe screenplay), I hope it's for him.

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Re: The Ides of March reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:53 pm

I think Clooney's fall-back career as director remains firmly in place. You either have or don't have that ability, and I think Clooney stands well above all other recent actors-trying-directing in terms of blending scenes/pictures/performances to both suggest some version of real life and to offer interior expression. As a piece of film-making, I think The Ides of March confirms that Good Night and Good Luck was no fluke.

But it also confirms that scripts matter: strip away the elegance of the compositions and the uniformly strong performances, and you're left with a thin narrative -- one that, even with some lively dialogue, offers little original insight into contemporary politics, and in fact relies on the sort of melodrama that marked The Best Man half a century ago.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I mean, seriously: in 2011, I'm supposed to take "the candidate had sex with an intern" as something so shocking it would rock a political pro to his core? In the final face-off, Gosling's character makes the throwaway observation that, above greater political sins, that's what the press would kill him over, and THAT might have made an intersting subject, plumbing the abusrdity of that. But the film appears to take the press' position: expecting us to view Morris' slip as disqualifying.

Beyond that: in 2011, a 20 year old woman, who's travelled in sophisticated and moneyed circles her entire life, who comes on to guys ten years her senior (apparently not too traumatized by what happened with Morris earlier) -- such a woman wouldn't know a way to get an abortion without disturbing a presidential candidate? Because she's Catholic? Come on.

And one step further: this movie made me wonder if I've ever seen a movie suicide -- A Star is Born notwithstanding -- that didn't seem hopelessly melodramatic.

One review below seemed to suggest that this element was not part of the original play. Is that true? (Calling Okri) If so, I can't imagine what motor drove this play, because the rest of it was pretty thin stuff. Honestly, the "simply meeting with the opposition for five minutes make you a traitor" plot-line struck me as quite a stretch, and hardly enough on which to base a whole play.

Yet...while I was watching the movie, I tended to enjoy alot of it anyway, and for that I think you have to credit the actors, including the the two rival campaign managers, Hoffman and Giammatti, who tend to be exorciated here but both of whom I think nail their scenes. Clooney's quite good, too, especially in that last scene, where we see naked fear play briefly across his face, even while he's telling himself Gosling must be bluffing. (It struck me, by the way, that in that scene Gosling was playing a more sophisticated, verbal version of Eastwood's famous "I know what you're thinking -- did he fire six shots or only five?" in Dirty Harry) As for Gosling, he holds the movie together, but I don't think his character has much clarity...the story calls for him to be far more naive than it makes any sense for someone in such a position to be, and I'm not sure how one would play that correctly. Or, really, what the filmmakers wanted.

I don't root against movies like these -- as a general matter, I'd prefer them being out there and seen than most of what turns up. But I'm seeing people feature this on short lists for major Oscar nominations this year, and there I have to cry foul. Even just in what I've seen, there are far more interesting/deserving films and performances than this film offers, and I'd be disappointed if something as mediocre as this boxed them out.

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Re: The Ides of March reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:43 pm

flipp525 wrote
Evan Rachel Wood displays most of the classic signs of a rape/incest victim in most every role she plays these days. Every time she pops up in something, I feel like I'm watching another hour of her celluloid therapy play out.

Yeah, she was pretty miscast, I think. Or rather she was too aptly cast. I think a more off-beat choice would have played better.

I liked The Ides of March, but I think its relative weightlessness also has something to do with Ryan Gosling who may be breaking through this year but not for me. Blue Valentine may be last year's film, but I saw it this year, and now I have seen him in four different kinds of roles and I am astounded that the only good performance that he really gives is high caricature. He's a very busy actor and if he is allowed to "dig" as he does in Blue Valentine the result is obnoxious. His best work this year was in Crazy, Stupid, Love. and even then you can feel him trying to find something real and anguished that the film wouldn't know what to do with. In Drive and also here, I find that the more still he becomes, the less there is to see. Imagine someone like Matt Damon in this role, someone who can convincingly sell the notion of tempted workhorse given in to idealism at this point in the game and you have a far more enticing film. As it is, the film has a small void in its center and that void is Ryan Gosling. I'm glad the world is realizing how talented he is. I figured it out years ago and am content to sit this year out.

I didn't have Sonic's problem with the theatrics of The Ides of March. It could have moved a little brisker with a little more intensity (some of that is on Gosling). For a film of very modest interior scale, it is always enjoyable but never riveting. This is a film enjoyed in spite of the fact that I would gladly trade it for a more ambitious one. Some are reading Obama fatigue into this, but if it is a work of revisionism it's a strangely antiquated one. If the point of The Ides of March is the mutual fall from grace and a darkening of the political soul, it certainly does feel like the cast and crew are working towards something grander that is being hampered by scale and ambition.

On the other hand, I'm a sucker for these things so I did enjoy myself. Marisa Tomei has become such a great character actor. I wish the film had more to do with her, and goddamn if she doesn't make for a convincing Jew in those glasses! Paul Giamatti is also very entertaining.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Ides of March reviews

Postby flipp525 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:19 am

Evan Rachel Wood displays most of the classic signs of a rape/incest victim in most every role she plays these days. Every time she pops up in something, I feel like I'm watching another hour of her celluloid therapy play out.
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Re: The Ides of March reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:23 pm

I guess there's a law somewhere which says that theatrically released feature films can never be 60 minutes long. But that doesn't mean certain movies SHOULD be over 60 minutes long, and The Ides of March is much longer than it needs to be. Had this been tightened up and had a character or two been dropped, it could have been a nifty little television drama. But Clooney's idea of disguising this adaptation's stage roots is to insert cinematic interludes in between the 'scenes' of dialogue, have the actors deliver said dialogue a beat-and-a-half more slowly than they would were they treading the floorboards, and - to make it more realistic - delivered sotto voce half the time. Nothing wrong with any of this in and of themselves, but it doesn't suit this particular genre well. The fact is, even though I'm glad this cast acted their hearts out, I prefer watching the grandstanding theatrics of Charles Laughton in Advise and Consent. And if we must watch venal chessgames play themselves out in the political arena, I prefer a touch of ludicrous soap opera and dark comedy to underline the material. In other words, some overt theatrics. Not all this weightiness.

Anyway, this isn't really a political movie, but an 'evil corporation' movie with all the tropes of that genre transplanted into a political setting. The thing is, there never really seems to be anything at stake here other than people's careers. There's no danger that a candidate will go against his conscience and sell out to the military industrial complex; Big Business or Big Pharma aren't threatening to expose a candidate's hypocracies or personal peccadilloes in exchange for a change in position on a certain issue. The conflicts here are all 'inside baseball'. And I was left with a lot of questions about character motivations, but it's impossible to talk about without spoiling the film.

Clooney is no amateur director, that's for sure. I particularly liked how he captured the buzzing activity of the close-quartered campaign offices, which felt like they were replicated by an insider. OTOH, twenty minutes before the film ended, I had an inspiration as to what the final shot of the film would be. I whispered my prediction to my wife, "I'll bet you anything that the final shot will be..." And unfortunately, I was right.
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Re: The Ides of March reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:36 pm

Don't know how long this'll last, but Screen Daily is now readable. Their somewhat more upbeat reaction:

Dir: George Clooney. USA. 2011. 101mins


A dark and well-crafted parable of American political ethics - or the lack of them - George Clooney’s second delve into the US political arena after Good Night, And Good Luck confirms his talents as director and the creative fertility of his screenwriting and producing partnership with Grant Heslov. And in his compelling performance as a young, politically committed campaign press secretary who learns to trade dirt and sell his soul, it also consecrates Ryan Gosling’s apparently inexorable rise from indie promise to Oscar-booking leading man.

The tight script and steady-handed control of atmosphere help Gosling.
It’s paradoxically the neatness of the script that is the film’s only real fault, as the Mamet-like switchbacks of the later stages reveal that what started as an intelligent and often darkly comic analysis of the Realpolitik of presidential campaigns is actually more of a conventional power-play thriller.

But this flirtation with the genre mainstream will only boost Ide’s commercial prospects compared to the talky, austere Good Night, And Good Luck. Sony’s bringing forward of the release date to from December to mid-October suggests a swaggering confidence and the prospect of a muscular awards-season campaign that should be echoed by upbeat box office (at least as much international as domestic) for this stylish and just a little retro drama of political abasement. And although it’s not exactly a feelgood product, Ides of March will also benefit from canny mood-of-the-nation timing as Barack Obama’s re-election campaign gets underway. With Obama 2, jaded is the new starry-eyed.

Close in storyline and occasionally in mood to Michael Ritchie’s 1972 political satire The Candidate but with shades of Sidney Lumet and a cut or two from Robert Altman’s unforgiving ironic scalpel, The Ides Of March follows in the recent tradition of films like Michael Clayton or People I Know, making disenchantment tasty in true seventies style.

The story centres on a make-or-break Democratic primary in Ohio on 15 March - the famous ‘ides’ of Julius Caesar’s back-stabbing assassination - between two presidential candidates. Our man, Governor Mike Morris (Clooney), is a slick political animal but also a seemingly good and sincere reformer, who is not afraid to defend his religious agnosticism in TV debates, espouse ‘socialist’ policies, defend a woman’s right to choose and (in a neat combination of homeland security and Green agenda that plenty of US politicians will be wishing they had thought of - or maybe they have) push non-fossil-fuel alternatives (thus reducing dependence on Arab oil) as an essential part of the war in terrorism.

The nice thing about Ryan Gosling’s character, Stephen Meyers, is that he’s not exactly an idealist: as Morris’ campaign press secretary, and working closely with his mentor and boss, Morris’ campaign manager Paul Zara (Hoffman), he isn’t afraid to smear the rival candidate to buy time and votes, or use the press (in the form of Marisa Tomei’s New York Times correspondent Ida Horowicz) to plant stories.

But he is clearly fired by a belief in the greater good of how Morris will change the country for the better once elected. His problem is hubris: an enfant prodige of only 30, he gets off on the sexy adrenalin of the campaign and his own talent so much that he makes two big mistakes - agreeing to a meeting with cynical rival campaign manager Tom Duffy (Giamatti, never more insidious), and bedding pert and forward young intern Molly Stearns (Wood). Clooney has less screen time, but he nails perfectly that baffling mix of substance and vacuousness that so politicians display, without ever quite losing our sympathy.

The Ides Of March wrong-foots us as it progresses, starting off in affable satirical mode but turning bleak and implacable as Stephen wins by sacrificing what made him care, and what makes him human. The tight script and steady-handed control of atmosphere help Gosling out here: settings in Ohio and Michigan are chosen to good effect to channel a mid-West that is miles from the usual heartland clichés. Icy slush on the streets, brown rivers under industrial ironwork bridges (Cincinatti’s 1866 Suspension Bridge), cheap bars and chain hotels are the backdrops to Phedon Papamichael’s moodily-lit cinematography, which darkens with the story. Alexander Desplat’s score also convinces, its solemn, sometimes militaristic drum and trumpet melodies playing a game of disturbing counterpoint in the film’s lighter first half.

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Re: The Ides of March reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:16 am

Hollywood Reporter, along the same lines.

The Ides of March: Venice Film Review
8:52 AM PDT 8/31/2011 by (Deborah Young)
Poised between politics and thriller, this morality tale from Clooney & Co. is illuminated by a terrific ensemble cast.

Director
George Clooney

Cast
Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella

Had writer/director George Clooney and his co-scripters Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon injected The Ides of March with the intimate political conviction that made Good Night, and Good Luck a critical standout and a frontrunner for liberal patrons, the exit polls would be more positive on this political thriller juggling idealism and corruption with fairly predictable results. Not just its softer narrative and dingy Midwestern setting but its structural lack of heroics is likely to keep the popular vote down on “Ides,” which can in any case bank on tense pacing and a superb cast, lead by a ruthlessly idealistic Ryan Gosling, to win festival votes beginning with its Venice bow.

Based on the play Farragut North by Willimon, a writer who worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in Iowa, the story opens with an initial rush of insiders’ momentum. Then, from the excitement of being backstage at a presidential primary, the script steers away from American politics into the universal turf of the Hollywood thriller, where non-Democratic and international audiences are more likely to follow. The title itself is a clue to the Shakespearian aspirations of the filmmakers, who set the action and a number of dramatic, at times obviously contrived plot twists in a world of backhanded politics and manipulation where Cassius, Brutus and Julius Caesar would feel right at home.

Perhaps the film is sufficiently in tune with the current American political climate of disillusion to find some bipartisan consensus. Pre-production on the $12 million movie was blocked in 2008 when Barack Obama won the presidential election because the film seemed too cynical for the optimistic mood of the day; a year later, it went back in production. Though few viewers will doubt what side of the political fence it’s on, the Democrats hardly emerge unscathed at the end of this behind-the-scenes trip through the cynicism, betrayal and double-dealing of a winner-take-all political campaign.

As the curtain rises on the handsome, expressionless face of young campaign press secretary Stephen Meyers (Gosling), the two Democratic candidates are neck-to-neck in the crucial Ohio race. One is governor Mike Morris (Clooney), an astonishingly liberal thinker in the Obama mold, who fearlessly brushes aside his opponent’s religious challenge with a glib “my religion is the U.S. Constitution.” The suave Clooney is appealingly convincing as this purist Democrat who refuses to compromise his principles or, as Paul Giamatti’s rough-and-ready, rival campaign manager Tom Duffy puts it, “get down in the mud with the f-ing elephants.”

In a few concise, well-written scenes, Stephen’s staunch idealism and dedication to the governor are firmly established, as well as his worth as a consummate professional and team player. He is a rising star in the office run by mastermind campaign manager Paul Zara, brought to life with tingling realism by Philip Seymour Hoffman. As weathered as Duffy but apparently less cynical, Paul actually follows a rulebook that allows no deviations. When Stephen lets the diabolical Duffy tempt him into a moral quandary about his job, all hell breaks loose.

Raising the stakes all around is another temptress, 20-year-old intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who seduces Stephen in a smooth exchange in a darkly lit bar. As soon as the sultry blonde comes on the scene, the film shifts away from the hot, rapid-fire political exchanges that set the stage, and into a film noir mode which is not unpleasant, but certainly less than could have been hoped for by the film’s piquant and original first half. From here on in the story gets a lot more familiar.

Still the fine cast makes every line of dialogue count, like the memorable final exchange between Paul and Stephen outside a churchyard, as their lives take different paths. Jeffrey Wright’s brief appearance as an influential senator able to swing the election is an example of perfect straight-faced gravitas, while Marisa Tomei’s crafty Times reporter is delightfully smart and underhanded. Even Wood, for all her sexual incorrectness, evokes sympathy when she gets into major trouble.

Classy and professional throughout, the technical work gracefully holds all the threads together. Director of photography Phedon Papamichael works the cold, washed-out grays of Cincinnati into a quietly intense atmosphere piece, culminating in an electrifying nocturnal show-down between Stephen and Morris set, for no particular reason, in a restaurant kitchen. Alexandre Desplat’s evocative yet unprepossessing soundtrack follows suit.

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The Ides of March reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:59 am

And, we're off: Variety from Venice.

This does seem to represent the lower end of opinion expressed so far -- few of the shorter reactions have been hats-in-the-air enthusiastic, but most have been at least mid-range. Okri's take on the original play appears vindicated.


The Ides of March
George Clooney's fourth feature as a director observes the inner workings of a Democratic presidential campaign through the eyes of a hotshot press secretary who isn't as smart as he thinks he is.
By Justin Chang

"The Ides of March"
Ho-hum insights into the corruption of American politics are treated like staggering revelations in "The Ides of March." George Clooney's fourth feature as a director observes the inner workings of a Democratic presidential campaign through the eyes of a hotshot press secretary who isn't as smart as he thinks he is; something similar could be said of this intriguing but overly portentous drama, which seems far more taken with its own cynicism than most viewers will be. Still, despite general-audience aversion to topical cinema, a top cast led by Ryan Gosling and Clooney could swing adult viewers in the Oct. 7 release's direction.
The film is adapted from Beau Willimon's juicy stage piece "Farragut North," which itself was loosely inspired by Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid. The play made its Off Broadway debut in November 2008, just a week after President Obama's election heralded a renewal of faith in the electoral process and a resurgence of hope for the future of American leadership.

Emerging three years later amid widespread disillusionment, bitter partisan squabbles and still-crippling economic woes, "The Ides of March" would seem ideally suited to these embittered times, and it retains enough of Willimon's crafty plotting and wicked zingers to work as slick bigscreen entertainment. Yet by opening up the structure of Willimon's taut morality play -- whose spare genius lay in its applicability to any campaign, any party -- the screenwriters have attempted to make the text feel more specific and contemporary, but instead have inflated it into something implausible, toothless and weirdly dated.

The story opens in the thick of a crucial Ohio primary, with suave Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney) expected to clinch the Democratic nomination ahead of his opponent, Sen. Pullman (Michael Mantell). Reasonably confident of Morris' victory are his battle-hardened campaign manager, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and 30-year-old press secretary, Stephen Meyers (Gosling). A smooth operator on the White House fast track, Stephen uses his considerable charm and smarts to spin political reporters like Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei), who's itching for a scoop on a potentially game-changing Morris endorsement by the influential Sen. Thompson (Jeffrey Wright).

But cracks start to appear when Stephen takes a fateful meeting with Pullman's campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), who provides compelling evidence that Morris' lead isn't as insurmountable as it appears, then attempts to to win Stephen over to the rival team. Later, Stephen's dalliance with Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), a pretty 19-year-old intern on the Morris campaign, adds layers of complication to this tale of dirty dealings, personal indiscretions and the lengths to which politicians and their underlings will go in their thirst for power.

Working with Willimon and "Good Night, and Good Luck" writing-producing partner Grant Heslov, Clooney has seized every opportunity to pepper the material with political in-jokes and references designed to make presumably left-leaning viewers chuckle and groan in self-recognition; the right wing, for its part, is clearly not one of the targeted quadrants here. Yet as it sneers at the inherent venality of politics and despairs over the gulf between stump-speech promises and meaningful political change, "The Ides of March" wallows in its own superiority to the point where its cynical pose looks almost naive.

Lensed in alternately dark and chilly tones by d.p. Phedon Papamichael and accompanied by Alexandre Desplat's brooding, busy score, the film has a polished sheen that conveys prestige and good taste yet never really approximates the lived-in chaos of the campaign trail. In one typical touch, a shot of Stephen silhouetted against a giant American flag is held a few beats too long, so that its irony registers less than its lack of subtlety. The protracted final sequence, intended to chill the viewer into sober reflection, merely induces a shrug.

In elevating the character of Gov. Morris from a peripheral presence onstage to a major player onscreen, the director never seems to be pumping up his own vanity. One of the film's more pleasing bold strokes is the way Clooney, well aware of his stature as Hollywood's resident statesman, turns himself into an eloquent mouthpiece for Democratic values, weighing in on everything from gay marriage to America's oil dependency -- only to undercut those ideals with a dispiriting glimpse of all the behind-the-scenes machinations, in a back-and-forth montage shrewdly assembled by editor Stephen Mirrione.

Elsewhere, the terrific cast isn't always seen to its best advantage. As the ambitious, cocksure Stephen, Gosling certainly looks the part, but the crux of his character -- a manipulator out-manipulated by more seasoned pros -- never fully comes into focus. Hoffman and Giamatti, delivering two of Willimon's sharpest monologues, are so well cast as world-weary campaign veterans that they warranted more scenes together. Most under-served of all is Wood, who delivers a sympathetic, emotionally immediate performance yet is stuck with a ludicrous subplot that represents the film's most ill-advised departure from the original text.


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