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There's nothing that I enjoy more than an adult political thriller with its smarts, scandal and cynicism front and center. Therefore, I was over-the-moon in anticipation for George Clooney's "The Ides of March." Director Clooney has assembled one of the year's most impressive casts including Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Clooney himself. It's a dream team and every performance is exemplary. And yet, despite the heavy hitters at the top of their game, the actual story behind "The Ides of March" is pretty familiar and, frankly, a tad underwhelming. I certainly wanted to and expected to like this movie, even love it, but it simply offers little new to the well-worn genre of political drama. Adapted from the 2008 play "Farragut North" by Beau Willimon, the narrative revolves around a Democratic primary with the standard amount of political hubris and idealistic disillusionment. It's really a very tight story highlighting the arc of Gosling's character and while the limited scope might have made for a focused play, it seems all so less-than-shocking (even typical or expected) on the big screen.

Gosling plays a principled staffer working for Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) as he fights to attain his party's nomination in the Democratic primary. Taking place almost exclusively on the campaign trail, we see that Gosling's idealism, savvy, and energetic commitment have made him invaluable to the presidential candidate. He works alongside Hoffman (in another characteristically great performance), spars with Giamatti from the rival candidate's camp, flirts with Wood as a beautiful young intern, is cagey with Tomei as an ambitious reporter, and trades nuggets of wisdom with the great man Clooney. Over the course of the primary, however, Gosling will come to confront the truth inherent in our political system and in humanity. If you place someone on a pedestal, they are surely in for a fall. But Gosling must grow up quick, open his eyes, and determine if he will be defeated by his disillusionment or become complicit in the complexities of the political machine.

In a year in which Ryan Gosling could do no wrong from romantic comedy (Crazy, Stupid, Love) to art house actioner (Drive) to this high profile endeavor--it's hard not to commend his versatility. Here, it is easy to see the brash young brilliance of his character, but that just makes his naivete all the more startling. The "shocking" turning point of the film is hardly shocking at all if one watches the news with any regularity, and yet it seems to completely undermine this insanely intelligent and politically astute character. And just as things ramp up for a turn-around, the film ends without a huge degree of payoff. I just feel that we've covered this corruption of innocence angle so many times, nothing felt particularly surprising or revelatory about "The Ides of March." I would still recommend the film, especially for the performances, but it lacks the groundbreaking allure that would define it as a classic. Clooney is terrific and full of easy charm as the candidate, Giamatti gets all the best lines (that must be in all of his contracts), and Hoffman is easily our most steadfast and reliable character actor. I just wish they, along with the great Gosling, had more to say that hadn't been said countless times before. About 3 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 12/11.
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on January 31, 2012
From the surface, working on a political campaign would seem to be not the most difficult job in the world. However, "The Ides of March" shows us just how difficult a campaign can be. Whether you consider yourself Conservative, Liberal or Independent, you can enjoy this film, for I don't believe Clooney's intent was to make a political statement.

For a general plot description, the film is about the campaigns of candidates Mike Morris (Clooney) and Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman. Both candidates are going for the Democratic nomination in the presidential election. Morris's campaign is managed by Stephen Meyers (Gosling) and Manager Paul Zara (Seymour Hoffman) while Pullman's campaign is managed by Tom Duffy (Giamatti). Both candidates are trying to get the endorsement of North Carolina Democratic Senator Franklin Thompson, who controls 356 delegates. Whoever gets his endorsement will have enough delegates to take the nomination.

What truly makes this film great is the realism that Clooney puts in it. Everything that happens during the campaign could happen and probably has happened in real-life. Anyone who enjoys political dramas or is just interested in the political campaign process should enjoy this film.
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on May 14, 2016
The story and characters kept me interested, but the conclusion left me hanging. Really, it was very much like politics: a few things happen, some dramatic, but in the end nothing gets done, and we're left hanging. It could have been better had it not been quite so low key.
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Despite the exalted cast in this movie, don't be fooled. it is Ryan Gosling's movie, just like it has been his year in acting in general. This is both the movie's strength and its weakness. In order to give him a dilemma, the screenplay picks a rather hackneyed problem which detracts from all this stellar acting.

George Clooney directed it and he has no problem playing the charming, good looking Democratic governor, who is very reminiscent of JFK. This is all too true of his eye for the ladies as well, which leads into the dilemma at the heart of the movie. Ryan Gosling works for the candidate. He has a fleeting relationship with a young woman, whom it turns out has had an even more fleeting relationship with the Governor.

While he's involved with the young woman, he also gets caught in the cross fire between two more seasoned political veterans played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giametti. Both of them play fairly detestable characters. In fact, the Gosling character is the only one who isn't entrenched in the deep mud of the political world. This movie is his education about what he's let himself in for by choosing politics as his arena. And it's either get down in the mud and play with these old hands or leave.

Most of the action takes place in Cincinnati Ohio because the Governor is running in the important Ohio primary for President. Everyone does a good job but if this was indeed the plot of the stage play, then I would have liked to seen it made less trite for the screenplay. There is nothing in here plot wise that you haven't been watching for decades.

Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
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on September 10, 2014
I purchased the Ides of March on Wednesday September 3, 2014 after seeing it on a list of recommended movies (for a career that I am gathering more research/details on). Less than seven days later, I was fortunate in receiving an invite and being able to attend an event in George Washington that indirectly tied into certain themes prevalent in the Ides of March movie. Ryan Gosling plays the role of a popular and talented campaign manager named Stephen Myers. Stephen Myers is spearheading an election campaign for Mike Morris (played by George Clooney), a Democratic candidate for the presidency. The character of Stephen Myers in the film is doing the job equivalent of what campaign managers Stephanie Cutter and Matt Rhoades did for the 2012 presidential elections (Cutter was connected with President Obama’s 2012 re-election bid and Rhoades was with Romney). Stephen Morris’s character is shown being proud and strongly believing in Mike Morris’s chances for election success. What adds further elements of surprise to the film is that the character of Myers receives temptation to join the other campaign. He is also tempted again when a gorgeous intern by the name of Molly Stearns (played by Evan Rachel Wood) comes on to him in a strong manner. I want to share more about the film. However, I’m intuitively guided to avoid sharing further details for those who still want to see the film. However, I must admit that I wish that the ending of the film would have went into further detail on what became of the candidates. Yes, I know that the Ides of March is a more serious movie, but doing what became of the candidates down the road even if the outcomes were fictional (such as in the more light-hearted Legally Blonde) would have added a more personal and humanistic touch. However, doing the outcomes to five years down the road or more would be ideal. This is because I feel that in life, not just in the movie (such as how college graduates are doing) many people are looking too soon at outcomes at how a man or woman is faring when a person’s life can greatly change even more 3-5 years down the road. Ides of March also features Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Marisa Tomei.
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on May 23, 2016
I'm sure somebody must have noted this, but I've made a cursory search and can't find it: this is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, as the title surely suggests. Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is Caesar, brought down by his subordinate Stephen (Ryan Gosling), who takes the part of the scheming Cassius. (His last name, Zara, is even derived from "Caesar" or "Tsar.) Gov. Morris (George Clooney is the idealistic Brutus, whom Cassius convinces to depose Caesar. In Shakespeare, it is Brutus who falls from nobility, just as it is Gov. Morris, here. Of course, everything isn't parallel: our Caesar lives, for instance, and will make $1,000,000 per year. That's probably about what losers get in our political world. We even have Brutus's adoring and serene wife, Calpurnia, in the Jennifer Ehle character. Though not all plot points or characters are parallel with Shakespeare's (nor need they be) most are.

I admire Clooney's decision, if it was indeed his, to have the "assassination" occur offstage, as it were, in the backseat of a car we only see from the outside, in a dirty alley, which is apt for the business being done there. Paul goes out with the garbage. I also like the last scene. Gosling's dead expression leaves no doubt about how Stephen's victory tastes to him. And there's one other thing. Stephen tells Molly that she has to go because she has made an unpardonable mistake. Then, he does the same thing and can't abide the same punishment he has so rigidly meted out to her. It's a fine irony, the one on which the story pivots. Makes you wonder which character found the best way out.

As modern political intrigue, the movie works exceptionally well. One can believe it actually happening today. Maybe Shakespeare's audiences felt the same way. Maybe nothing changes in politics.

The sexual indiscretion is, of course, an addition--not in Shakespeare. The criticism that this is a hackneyed plot element might be valid if it weren't handled so movingly, and that is all to the credit of Evan Rachel Wood, whose performance steals every scene she's in. Clooney, Gosling, Hoffman, and Giamatti are all excellent (what a cast!), but it's Wood who, for me, settles the question of how many stars this merits.

Highly recommended,
John Pendley
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on June 4, 2016
cherchez la femme -- yet again, the crux of a story hinges on a female "mistake" her boss caused, which threatens a looming political disaster in at least 3 men's careers (and, by the way, her own, but that doesn't count, does it?) The maneuvers required to manage an election are delineated fairly well as seen through my admittedly jaded eyes
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on June 7, 2016
I liked that they did the movie in Cincinnati - every political movie chases around the same plots of land in DC, and it fit very nicely.

Cast was good, minus.... yes, I'm going to do it.

Ryan Gosling.

It's not as bad as putting Keanu Reeves in the role, but let's face it - Ryan Gosling trying to pass himself off as an intellectual heavyweight who is sharp as a tack, is like putting Reeves in a Shakespearean play. Keanu always sounds like Bill & Ted, and Gosling always sounds like he just woke up.

The movie did also tend to fizzle out. Any suspense that would get built up would be prematurely extinguished. By the time we see Ryan Gosling at the end staring off into space, doing what he does best... I was joining him.
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There is precious little that is more frustrating than watching a film with a platinum-caliber cast fall short of expectations, but that was exactly my reaction to George Clooney's 2011 smart, engrossing adaptation of Beau Willimon's 2008 play, which in turn, was loosely based on the failed 2004 Democratic primary campaign of Howard Dean. Clooney shares screenwriting credit with frequent collaborator Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck) and Willimon, and together they provide some insight into the inner workings of the American political system. The movie starts out strong and the dialogue feels quite sharp, but the plot twists turn out to be far less about the subtle intricacies in the current political scene and more about classic Hollywood themes like honor and loyalty. This cautious approach results in a film that is far more conventional in execution than I was hoping it would be based on the trailers.

The story focuses on Stephen Meyers, a young politico who is the junior campaign manager for the charismatic Mike Morris, the governor of Pennsylvania who is looking to secure the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Competing against Senator Ted Pullman of Arkansas, Morris is looking to lock down the Ohio primary, but his surest chance for victory ride on getting an endorsement from Senator Thompson of North Carolina, who is pulling out of the election. After a hotly contested debate, Pullman's campaign manager Tom Duffy sets Meyer aside and confidentially asks him to switch camps and work for Pullman. Flattered and understandably paranoid, Meyers keeps this offer a secret from his boss, Morris senior campaign manager Paul Zara. Further complicating matters is Molly Stearns, an intern whom Meyers beds only to find out she had a previous liaison with Morris. She also happens to be the daughter of the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. A fair amount of Machiavellian-level deception and double-crossing among the campaign managers leads to one suicide and Meyers ultimately reconsidering his ideals in pursuit of success and revenge.

The performances are as solid as you would expect. Clooney effortless brings his savvy and charm to Morris in a way that makes you wish Obama could pick up pointers from him. If Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman were anything less than stellar as Duffy and Zara respectively, that would have been far more surprising. What would have been more interesting is if the actors switched roles as they would be playing less to their usual archetypes. Evan Rachel Wood effectively plays the pivotal role of Molly, bringing an intriguing mix of youthful moxie and vulnerability to her character's actions, while Marisa Tomei provides just the right level of cynicism to her New York Times reporter (...will she ever return to starring roles?). Jeffrey Wright is criminally underused in just a few scenes as Thompson, but Max Minghella (the late director Anthony's son) lends sharpness to his minor role as a nakedly ambitious member of the Morris campaign staff. At the center of it all, Ryan Gosling proves he has the gravity to carry a mainstream movie, even one as fully loaded as this one. I only wish the film itself was more surprising and insightful than it was.
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on February 11, 2014
When political candidates wear their suits, their fine haircuts, and their grins to go in front of the camera, they seem like well-kept up-right people. Few of their constituents know what goes on behind the scenes. Few people knew prior to the breaking of the Watergate scandal that President Nixon regarded political adversaries as enemies and used offensive epithets when referring to them. Few people know that Bill Clinton attacked an aid and threw him to the ground during election night of one of his gubernatorial re-election bids in Arkansas. (That aid has since become a right-wing republican.) And recently, few knew at the time that presidential-hopeful John Edwards was hiding a secret extra-marital affair which is now coming out because of a court case at this writing in April 2012. The Ides of March is about the dark sides of campaign politics exposed.

Governor Mike Morris (loosely based on Gov Howard Dean) is just about as ideal as they come in terms of presidential candidates. He's handsome, smart, articulate, and confident. In fact, confidence oozes out of him like toothpaste from a tube. Americans want that in their politicians even more than intelligence. Confidence and good-looks go further than morality and intelligence, albeit with one exception. Americans like to perceive their politicians as moral, especially in regards to their sexual life. As one character will express later, presidents are restricted from certain behaviors, while even doing things like running up national deficits can be forgiven. The only part which is a little fantastical is when Morris says he doesn't believe in God but only the US Constitution. Any presidential hopeful would be roasted alive by other candidates for making such pronouncements.

One of his top aids, Stephen Meyers, works for Morris' campaign manager, Paul Zara. They are campaigning in Ohio, one of the final stops on the primary election road. Ohio seems to be slipping from Morris. If he loses Ohio and then loses the next stop, North Carolina, his presidential bid may be over. They need the Senator from North Carolina and former presidential-hopeful Thompson to endorse, but he is reluctant to do so unless he's promised a cabinet post, possibly the Secretary of State. Morris doesn't want to give Thompson this post because he disagrees on his foreign policy. However, if Thompson refuses to endorse Morris and offer his 360 delegates, Morris will be in jeopardy of losing the nomination.

Meyers then receives a phone call from the opposition's campaign manager. Unsure what he should do, Meyers agrees to the meeting. Later, Meyers learns a dark secret from one of the interns on the campaign. Both fronts could either derail the entire campaign or jeopardize Meyers position as a top aid to the candidate. All of a sudden, Meyers becomes thrust into the center of a web of political intrigue from which he can't seem to escape.

A brilliant film about the dirty laundry of politics. Star and director George Clooney is perfectly cast as the seemingly unflappable presidential candidate. Clooney in interviews related that one of his favorite films is "All the President's Men" which chronicles the investigation by Washington Post reporters who exposed the Watergate Scandal. "Ides of March" is probably Clooney's answer to "All the President's Men", showing an insider's look into the politics behind the politics. Stuff we probably shouldn't see.
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