George Clooney appears to be a man no-one dislikes, he has a natural wit and charm about him and the ladies love a silver fox. In the new film “The Ides of March” we see him as a presidential candidate being helped along by PR secretary Ryan Gosling. It seems like George is pretty much the perfect actor to
play Governor Mike Morris, he is seen as a “new kind of politician”, one without any hidden agendas and who doesn’t just tell the public what they want to hear. The film opens on a scene in which Morris refuses to say he’s religious just to try and win the public’s approval (as many American politicians appear to do) but more interestingly, the film (and scene) show that the people behind the scenes, in this case Paul Zara and Stephen Meyers (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ryan Gosling), are clearly just as important as the candidate we see. The fact that Meyers says the exact scripted statements as Morris does before he goes on stage just shows the true face of politics.
I like that “The Ides of March” is like this, every single scene has a subtle message behind it, whether political or simply about the nature of people, there is so much subtext in the film that it is bursting out the seams. For example, even the title of the film is a cleverly chosen Shakespeare quote about the day on which Caesar was stabbed in the back by his fellow politicians, on first hearing, you may not notice this or pick up on the reference, but it soon becomes clear that this is just one example of the film being far cleverer than you may think at first glance.
Clooney is also the director and co-writer of the film, in which he also takes a supporting but still important role. It seems strange that someone so renowned for being an actor has moved into Directing in the last few years, yet we’ve seen Mel Gibson do extraordinarily well in Directing (better, I would argue, than he ever was at acting) so why can’t George follow in his footsteps? It seems that by being an actor and director helps, he has drawn extraordinary performances out of star Ryan Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood (whose only real claim to fame appears to be her short-lived engagement to goth star Marilyn Manson). Their shared scenes have sexual chemistry raising the roof, badinage and flirting is so wonderfully captured by the extreme close-ups; I can’t help but think that only an actor would be so daring as to place the camera so close. It is a risk that pays off beautifully.
Unfortunately George himself steps out of the limelight a bit, he plays Governor Morris pretty much the same as any other George Clooney character, you could switch him for Danny Ocean from “Ocean’s Eleven”, Batman or Harry Pfarrer from “Burn After Reading”. Only towards the end of the film does the character become someone even slightly out of the ordinary for George and by then we’ve been so astounded by Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood’s performances that it seems too little too late. Similarly Phillip Seymour Hoffman, usually a solid actor, appears to be cruising through the film, he absent-mindedly delivers his lines and is simply outmatched by other actors like Paul Giamatti and Ryan Gosling.
The ideas the film introduces are really very interesting ones, it talks about integrity, trust, hypocrisy and gives you some ideas about the dirty back dealings of politics, it doesn’t hand you these all on a platter though. “The Ides of March” is no walk in the park, it is incredibly intelligent and will not be everyone’s cup of tea but I can guarantee that the ending will leave you quizzing yourself over and over. It is similar to the end of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” and will leave you with a question that needs answering. Will he, won’t he? It may seem that from the rest of the film that the answer is obvious, but with this film nothing is certain. I love that about it.