When I first heard about this film, starring George Clooney, I was very excited to go and see it. Add in Ryan Gosling (in his third major role this year) and it equals a whole lot of ‘eye candy’ for the ladies… Hail to the Chief! But now to the ‘real story’. The Ides of March is a 2011 political drama which takes us inside the all scheming – all the time hardball world of a presidential campaign.
Ides which was directed and co-written by Clooney (alongside frequent collaborator Grant Heslov and former political operative Beau Willimon) is an adaptation of Willimon’s 2008 play Faragut North.
In one corner we have Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) the idealistic junior campaign manager for Mike Morris (George Clooney), Governor of Pennsylvania and a presidential candidate. Meyers believes in the cause and will do whatever it takes to make those ideals come true. Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a rumpled veteran of half a dozen campaigns is the senior campaign manager and the personal friend of Meyers. Together they are attempting to enlist Ohio’s support for Morris which would nearly guarantee his nomination.
In the other camp is Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell) and his sly and devious campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) The setting is the March Ohio Democratic primary with 369 convention delegates at stake. The struggle is not so much about who will win the nomination, but whether Stephen Meyers (Gosling)- the gifted media consultant working for Morris (Clooney) who believes in running a truthful campaign and believes his candidate is a principled man- will stay true to his ideals or will he turn to the ‘dark side’ of politics. Meyers is finding out that the real campaign is waged unfortunately behind the scenes, fueled by underpaid interns, desperate fundraising, the hunt for endorsements, and high-priced consultants.
Meyers will start a sexual relationship with one of the interns Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) whose father is head of the Democratic National Committee. It is through this relationship that he will learn some of the ‘truths’ about Mike Morris (Clooney) that will shake him to the core and set him on a new path… or does it?
Also in the film is Meyer’s friend, Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei)- a hard driving NY Times reporter who is as ruthless and cynical as anyone of the people she covers. She will do anything to get ‘the story’. She reveals to Meyers (Gosling) that she has an anonymous source who has leaked Meyers meeting with Duffy (Giamatti) from the opposite camp. It is this meeting with Duffy that is the catalyst for a series of events that could cost Morris the presidency. She threatens to publish it unless Zara (Hoffman) Meyer’s boss , gives her the scoop on what his meeting with the Ohio Senator was about. Only three people knew of this meeting- Duffy, Zara, and Meyers himself. Now, who is he to trust?
The strength of this film is in the acting. Morris (Clooney) is the charismatic, frank and uncompromising candidate who gives forceful speeches that go to the core of what is wrong with the current government and makes you want to vote for him. Clooney as the director elicits terrific performances from his supporting cast. It is Gosling’s cool charm, unreadable eyes and dynamic personality that takes over the screen and this film. It is Giamatti, Hoffman and Gosling who have the bulk of the dialogue and Clooney encourages his cast to really get into it. The dialogue is smart and focused. It is entertaining to see Gosling verbally spar with superb actors like Hoffman and Giamatti who are at their best and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some nominations around awards season from this cast of thespians.
Although the film does not cover anything new, we all know what truly goes on behind those closed doors, it was an enjoyable movie to watch. And maybe all that ‘eye candy’ dressed in sharp suits had something to do with it!