Sunday, 19 February 2012

2011 films: #3


Directed by George Clooney

I will start this by saying that I absolutely loved Clooney’s previous political film, Good Night, and Good Luck. It was stylish, classy looking stuff – delightfully retro-ish, dim-lit, smoke-filled. So I had high hopes here. Thankfully, it only took me one scene and one Ryan Gosling close-up to know that The Ides of March would not be a letdown. Smart and cynical, this film tells you all there is to tell about politics and just how it works.

Yes, ‘cynical’ might be the very word. In this slick tale of one presidential campaign any illusions you might have had, any dreams and hopes Obama might have offered you – everything gets trampled and spat upon. And perhaps rightfully so. Stephen Meyers (for me, Ryan Gosling is sensational in this performance) is a Campaign Manager of a Democratic presidential candidate, Mike Morris (Clooney at his sly and sinister best). The story – the film’s actually an adaptation of Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North – starts with hope, gets really ugly in the middle, and ends with hope. But you are a little wiser at the end, you know the price of that hope. As of course does Stephen, who has to witness all the crookedness and opportunism and make the kind of moral choice he could live with.    

The acting is exemplary. Besides Clooney and Gosling there’s also the ever brilliant and reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman. There’s also the excellent Marisa Tomei – a New York Times reporter adding to the screws put on Stephen when a source leaks that he met Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the Campaign Manager for another candidate, Ted Pullman.

It’s hard for me to understand why the film was so modestly praised. I, for one, hadn’t enjoyed a political film this much since maybe Frost/Nixon. What you see underneath all the promises and cheerful speeches is the kind of world that is both intricate and crude. People just getting by – regardless of a young pregnant girl or any ideals they might be standing by. It’s frustrating, it’s disconcerting, but you get so carried away with the action and the pace of the film that you almost wish Stephen to do what he does in the end. You hate what you see in The Ides of March, but equally you feel mesmerized, transfixed, beguiled.

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