This contemporary spin on political thrillers like The Candidate isn't issue-oriented as caustic when it comes to the cutthroat nature of what is built on word-of-mouth and trust.
George Clooney produces, co-writers and co-stars in The Ides of March, more of a star vehicle for a busy Ryan Gosling (see Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love.). The solid ensemble also includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood.
Clooney helped pen this adaptation of Beau Willimon's play Farragut North with Willimon and producing partner Grant Heslove (see Good Night and Good Luck) with a enough simmering sophistication to embrace its more ominous cynical mindset. The setting is a hectic period prior to the Ohio presidential primary. A watchable, if ultimately insignificant drama is booked by interns getting coffee for staffers.
Gosling's Stephen Meyers is a political consultant whose idealistic philosophy makes him think highly of a formidable "change candidate" - Clooney's Gov. Mike Morris whose speeches may remind some of a Bill Clinton.
After Meyers bustles his way as a press secretary, his mettle will eventually be tested as he realizes the cost of his politically correct actions. The drama that unfolds is of a palatable, slick quality as a scandal threatens to thwart Morris's chance at the Oval Office. Gosling goes about Stephen's transformation in ways that help give an obvious tale some needed pop as skulduggery wields its ugly head.
What won't real be that revelatory to more discerning filmgoers (as the filmmakers seem to be acquiescing in the bipartisan system) still attracts enough attention through characters caught in some dirty business. Giamatti (see Win Win) and Hoffman (see Moneyball) have some notable scenes as an opposing campaign manager and Meyers' mentor, respectively; Tomei does nicely as a nosy Jewish journalist, while Wright, in three scenes, cuts a fairly interesting figure as a Senator. Wood shows up as an alluring Molly who stirs the political pot from her lineage and intimacy with those mixed up in power plays.
Maybe if The Ides of March is akin to the reality of a dirty business, it just isn't more than a headstrong newsflash even with the gifted Gosling and a sharp, if fairly noticeable shift in the last act. What may have been memorable melodrama with surprising depth isn't filled with a compelling power or with alacrity and moral complexity that Robert Redford produced back in the 1970s.
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