Myers does his best at damage control, taking him on a journey from his lofty ideals to compromise, then betrayal, and finally hardball power plays. He initially makes bad choices with good intentions that, over time, evolve to corrupt (even criminal) gambles with intentions that are consciously, coldly cutthroat. Will he be a victim of the system, become a master of it, or are the two basically one in the same?

The narrative and thematic escalation of the film’s final hour definitely improves upon an interesting but mostly-toothless first-half. The screws turn, friends and colleagues are pitted against each other, and all the players are formidable. It’s still nothing more than political pulp fiction but, to apply literary terms to cinematic form, The Ides of March becomes quite the page-turner.

Clooney’s stylistic vision nearly makes up for what the script often lacks. For one, it’s refreshing to see a new political movie not try to copy Aaron Sorkin’s (The West Wing, The Social Network) rapid-fire dialogue or self-important air, as many do. Instead, Clooney’s inspirations are the quiter but unnerving slow-burns of the mid-‘70s (All The President’s Men, The Candidate, etc.). It’s unfortunate then that the screenplay doesn’t have the depth to match Clooney’s directorial heft.

The cast is uniformly impressive, Gosling especially. His screen presence is as magnetic as it is natural; it’s a brooding charisma. He wisely doesn’t overplay a sense of naivete early on (even as he sells his passionate idealism), which helps make him believable as someone to be reckoned with as events spiral. Wood is a nuanced femme fatale, both confident and vulnerable. 

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball) and Paul Giamatti (Win Win) bring different shades of spin-doctoring to the dueling campaign managers. Both are compelling but Giamatti more so as he’s the one guy who seems to have found an ethical code within dirty politics. As the candidate, Clooney remains in a supporting role that’s more like a glorified extended cameo. Nevertheless, he saves one of the film’s juicest confrontations for himself—and delivers.

The Ides of March certainly gets better as it goes, crescendoing to a final moment that will leave people talking (and half of them frustrated). It’s a good movie but, like so many candidates running for office, not quite as good as it hopes to be.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Alcohol consumed (no drunkeness). A drug overdose occurs, but the taking of drugs is not depicted (just suggested). A few instances of smoking.
  • Language/Profanity: S-words and f-words are used regularly throughout (on a couple of occasions, the f-word is used in the sexual context). The a-word is said a couple of times, and one instance of taking Christ’s name in vain. The “t” word for breasts is used.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: A couple of sex scenes, but not explicit. Scenes are shot in close-up of kissing as sex is implied and simulated out of frame (no nudity). Other moments of lying in bed together. Flirtatious and sexually-charged dialogue occurs between Myers and Molly.
  • Violence/Other: None.