London Film Festival 2011: The Ides of March (George Clooney)

Philip Seymour Hoffman commented, that for some, directing does not come naturally but George is one of those guys who has made the step from acting into directing, smoothly. Having not seen any of George’s previous forays into filmmaking (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind ’02, Good Night, and Good Luck ’05-which earned 2 Oscar nominations), I couldn’t comment, but having experience some of his 40 years in the acting business, I would guess he knows what he’s doing.

The Ides of March is a political thriller, following the presidential campaign of democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Mike Morris (Clooney). Campaign manager Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and press secretary Stephen (Ryan Gosling) are the men pulling the strings, but when the press (Marisa Tomei) gets hold of something juicy, lies, blackmail and corruption are exposed behind every corner and the power hungry become ruthless, friendless and moral-less.

What always annoys me about political dramas is that they never go far enough. They fail to make any real impact and so lose credibility for playing it safe. Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, I found this to be a case in point with The Ides of March. The film felt so out of touch with modern politics that it could have been made ten years ago. Yes, politicians try to cover things up, but that isn’t new! I started the film relatively impressed, wondering whether it was as good as Michael Clayton ’07, even, but then became increasingly distant from the banal plot and had given up on Clooney by the dramatic climax, which barely even registered.

Praise can be given to Clooney’s impersonation of a presidential candidate, which, although he claimed he ‘struggled’ with exuding confidence, he appeared to have an enormous ego and almost regal presence on screen. Ryan Gosling played well, showing something desperate and lonely in his face (or maybe that’s just his face naturally), and I am always impressed by Paul Giamatti, probably stemming from The Truman Show ’98 to Sideways ’04 and then Shoot ’em up ’07; he’s fantastic. Then there is Evan Rachel Wood, who stars as an intern on the campaign; I find her very annoying. I didn’t enjoy her in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works ’09, or in Pretty Persuasion ’05, and let’s not even talk about Thirteen ’03.

Anyway, getting back to the film in question, The Ides of March succeeds as a tame political drama, but ultimately fails to excite, treading in tepid waters.

In theatres October 28.

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