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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Dueling Reviews: ‘The Ides of March’

    Is ambition’s debt ever truly paid?

    Such is the question at the heart of George Clooney’s “The Ides of March,” a film whose very excellence is in itself ironic. The movie is as much a reflection of the political order as it is a condemnation of the false promises on which nominees so often seem to run.

    In the movie, Mike Morris (Clooney) is as ideal a public figure as can be imagined, boldly offering promises of religious freedom, peaceful foreign policy and a departure from the nation’s prevailing dependence on foreign oil. He’s progressive, he’s smart and most importantly, he’s a good man, which is why senior campaign staffer Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) believes in him as fiercely as he does. In Stephen’s view, the United States needs Morris if it is to survive, meaning when rival campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) invites him to work for the opposition, it takes no thought to turn down the job. This meeting with Duffy, however, is the catalyst for a series of events that could cost Morris — and the entire Democratic Party — the presidency.

    While the film’s message — that politics can corrupt otherwise moral men — isn’t new, the way the filmmakers deliver this theme sets the movie apart. Many of the story’s revelations hit hard, even though a basic knowledge of the subject is enough to see them coming (especially given the less-than-pristine reputation of politicians today). This is unmistakably the result of great filmmakers — and yes, Clooney is a great filmmaker — being given the freedom to do their jobs, leaving us with a film that’s as methodical as it is pulse-poundingly intense, bursting at the seams with questions of morality.

    And while the story is undoubtedly Gosling’s, it’s Clooney’s Pennsylvania Gov. Morris who proves the most worthy of discussion. It’s stated early in the film that Morris is “a great guy. They’re all great guys. But sooner or later, he will disappoint you. They always do.” Whether or not the film disappoints, of course, will rest on the viewer, making “Ides” more likely to clean up at awards season than at the box office.

    Grade: A

    — Josh Weisman

    I have an idea. Let’s take every single recognizable piece of pop culture’s spin on the political sphere, ball it up and throw it against a big screen with George Clooney and someone even hotter. Hmm, how about Ryan Gosling?

    It’s not that “The Ides of March” fails at what it sets out to accomplish; it’s that it never seems to have set out to accomplish much. The plot roots itself firmly around the Ohio Democratic presidential primary of some near-present fictional reality, where Clooney’s Gov. Mike Morris hopes to gain the nomination over downplayed opponent Sen. Pullman.

    In a jumble of political allusions ranging — in the realm of signage alone — from Obama-style portraits to “I Like Mike,” a series of betrayals, self-serving maneuvers and quick-spoken discoveries of both unfold. Were it not for the prominent padded suit shoulders, hotel-surfing interns and Gosling’s cool-charm smile, the story could be about any given group of well-dressed friends.

    In fact, far from feeling like a crash course in the ethics of politics — or even a “24”-esque glimpse into the lives of the powerful — “The Ides of March” settles into a “Gossip Girl”-like groove, complete with semi-meaningful shots of the vibrating screens on brandless phones.

    But it is in this sense that the movie succeeds; the human drama is compelling enough to carry the plot, whose respective twists do nothing if not engage the audience.

    And, yes, you feel for the characters. Gosling’s bright-eyed Stephen Myers is particularly sympathetic because of his killer combo of idealism and purported campaign-saving talents. Truly, the entire story could (were you willing to limit it) serve as a sort of coming-of-age narrative for this noble-seeming staffer.

    Mostly, though, this is the type of movie that made me want to play office as a kindergartener — full of people who dress well, talk quickly and seem to have so much to do. But what if the political mood piece of a movie, full of such effective characters, has far less conviction than they do?

    Grade: C

    — Christy Delehanty

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