Release date in India:
November 18, 2011
Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright
He forgot the golden rule of politics: you can go to war, send the country to the brink of ruin … but never f*** the intern.
Who is “he”? Aha, I will not tell! George Clooney’s latest directorial venture The Ides of March is a political drama based on a screenplay by Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, adapted from the play Farragut North by Willimon. It stars Clooney as Pennsylvania governor Mike Morris hoping to get the Democratic Party nomination for the next US presidential election. He’s a decent fellow who hates giving in to the political manoeuvring that’s inevitable if you wish to play the game. But don’t nice guys finish last? Well, not if they have on their team a campaign manager as brilliant as Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his genius media secretary Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling). The film revolves around Stephen, a hard-as-nails operator who is more naive than he imagines, and is with Governor Morris because he genuinely believes in him.
Nothing, however, is as it seems in this seemingly sedate film with storms incessantly brewing below the surface. Like Clooney’s earlier directorial outings, The Ides of March too is a mood piece. Watching it is like being in a spacious art gallery. You don’t see actual movement on the canvases, and yet you are aware that there’s a world of motion out there beneath those brush strokes. There’s drama minus surface melodrama. And as usual, the cast is impeccable.
In Crazy, Stupid, Love earlier this year, when Gosling took off his shirt for the first time before his girlfriend, she involuntarily exclaimed: Oh my god, that looks like Photoshop! Right you are, girl! This man seems too hot to be real. Yet he overcomes the hurdle that great looks can sometimes be, to deliver a performance in this latest film that’s restrained and touching.
But the air-conditioner in the hall where I watched The Ides of March was not effective enough to handle a film starring both Gosling and Clooney. The veteran actor-director’s HQ (hotness quotient) rises every year even as the furrows on that brow deepen and the hair gets grayer. Clooney with his undeniable good looks, easy charm and command over the craft is perfect for the part of the quintessential good guy whose instincts rebel against mucky politics. Another star who lends great dignity to advancing years is Marisa Tomei whose age-enhanced face is such a delight to the eyes. Playing the ingratiating-and-terse-by-turns political reporter, Tomei reminds us once again that Hollywood has not given her her due in terms of roles despite her memorable Oscar-winning performance in My Cousin Vinny (1992).
The film’s primary strength is its amazing cast. Their performances and the film’s atmosphere of intensity are further enhanced by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael’s extreme close-ups and the production design which favours greys, browns and beiges, building up to the inevitability of cold cynicism in the filthy world of politics.
If there is a flaw in the film, it is the somewhat simplistic and contrived nature of the ending. After a series of neat and unpredictable twists, I thought Morris capitulated to circumstances more easily than I’d have expected, and the change in Stephen’s public demeanour (from smooth-talking charmer to openly harsh cynic with the press) did not quite fit. So yes, the finale of The Ides of March is a tad underwhelming and feels a little bit like the writers weren’t sure how to wrap it up. But before the end there is an entire film with incredible actors … and that film is a compelling watch!
Rating (out of five): ***1/2
Release date in the US:
October 7, 2011
MPAA Rating (US):
R (for pervasive language)
CBFC Rating (India):
100 minutes approximately
Photograph courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ides_of_March_(film)