“If you want to be president, you can start a war, you can lie, you can cheat, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t fuck the interns. They’ll get you for that.” – Stephen Meyers, The Ides of March (2011).
Something about political films in general really does interest me. However the amount of political films that I have actually enjoyed is limited. So watching The Ides of March was a definite highlight of my week. Well, it should have been, but it just wasn’t. Instead it has started a string of poor viewings. The past week of film that I have seen has been in the middle of mediocre to downright appalling. Still, I’ll try not to get ahead of myself as the focus is now on The Ides of March.
Mike Morris (George Clooney) is Ohio’s popular Democrat candidate and a sure fire hit for the presidency. His secretary, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is a fan of his and believes in the integrity of the candidate. When scandals begin to hit both men from both sides of the political wing, the very integrity of the two men is questioned.
Thus, this film ends my string of Gosling films too. The Nice Guys (2016) was pretty funny and Drive (2011) was stunning. But as for this film, I can’t really say it’s his best work. Now that’s not to say he was bad, he wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. However, he wasn’t good either. He’s more or less in the middle ground of mediocrity. Pretty much all of the actors in this film fall into the realm of mediocrity. There’s no performance that outlines itself as amazing. On the other hand though there aren’t any that I would deem as anything less than bad.
It may surprise you to learn that George Clooney directed this film. Now I must admit, I do like him as an actor. Could I enjoy his work as a director? Yes, I probably could if I were given a better film. This film really does highlight the talent he has for direction, but I think a better film would give me a better taste of his work. The general tone of the film switches from a mostly solid political drama to something rather over the top. I won’t spoil exactly what happens but for me it was a deal breaker. By the end of the film this big event has literally no consequence apart from one scene that wouldn’t have happened.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in this film, and to be honest I do like the role he plays. But then again I like pretty much every role he plays. Within this film he pretty much plays a political advisor and the twist with his character is great. A bit lacking in build up but it does pave the way to the later parts of the film. He works well with Gosling’s character. One of the few aspects this film gets right is that nobody is untouchable. Everything can turn on a dime and it’s presented really well. There are constant twists and turns in this tale that eventually you’re lost off for good.
Honestly, I despised Clooney’s character in this film, but that’s the point, right? His opening speech about religion highlighted the trash politicians come out with on a daily basis. Merely pandering and feeding the crowd as much as they can so they can get a better impression with them. This was highlighted well, and the fact that I disliked his character so much should definitely be a good thing. But it wasn’t. It would have been if any of the other characters were remotely relatable in any way, shape or form. Still, that shouldn’t stop me from enjoying the film. Sure, it lessened the enjoyment, but that wasn’t the overall reason.
There were a lot of problems with this film for me and none were more obvious than the dialogue. It was forgettable at best, the religious bit I briefly mentioned in my previous paragraph only highlights that. For the most part the dialogue is very forgettable. The more tense and dramatic scenes don’t have the weight behind them that they required. Most of them, aside from the one between Hoffman and Gosling, are completely forgettable.
Nothing interesting in regard to cinematography is a shame. Honestly I did expect more of Clooney and I’m not exactly sure why that is. What I was presuming was that this film was going to look into the dirtier side of politics. The side we as a public fail to ever see. I was right, the film does do that, but not to the extent I had imagined it was going to. The same goes for the lighting and soundtrack too, there’s nothing interesting to hear or see. But to be fair did this film really need to have that focus? It is, after all, a political drama. The focus should be on the dialogue. Of course that’s the problem with this film though, the dialogue isn’t able to hold the film up on its own.
So overall then I can’t say I was too thrilled to be watching this film. When you think about it the only other relevant look into politics is The Thick of It (2005 – 2012) and that ended a while ago. Also, that’s a television show, not a film. There’s just something about this film that didn’t click with me. Everyone else seems to love it and I can sort of see why. As far as political drama goes, George Clooney has a definitely good handle on it. However, he could have done so much more.
With a wild cast of performances ranging from bad to mediocre, The Ides of March is one of those films that you can most probably skip. One criticism I’m surprised I didn’t bring up is that this film basically feels like George Clooney’s political pipe dream. What he’d really want to happen in the world of politics is shown. But the real question is the believability of the piece. Can you believe that something like this would happen? Well, sort of, but it’s presented with the grace of a sledgehammer.