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Monday, October 10, 2011

Ides of March



In Ides of March, a taut political drama co-written and directed by George Clooney, we finally learn just how much it takes for Ryan Gosling to stop smiling. Gosling plays a young, idealistic political strategist working for governor and Presidential candidate Clooney. Gosling's poor judgment in accepting a five minute meeting with his opposite number Paul Giamatti could spiral Clooney into a potential scandal while simultaneously ruining Gosling's career. Gosling's own hush-hush sexual liaison with underage campaign worker Evan Rachel Wood opens up a whole different avenue of revelations about Clooney's secret indiscretions. "This is the big leagues," Gosling scolds Wood. "It's mean. One mistake and it's all over." Minutes later, Gosling faces that same grim reality which he caused by his own choices. Ides of March, about a Democratic campaign for President centering on the Ohio primary (in a universe where many past Presidents are named, including George W. Bush, but Barack Obama apparently does not exist), takes a withering view of both Republican election tactics and the "weak" of response Democrats.  Clooney chooses iconography starkly similar to the Obama campaign of 2008, and offers the conclusion that regardless of the public perception of a candidate, "He's a politician... he'll let you down." Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Clooney's weathered campaign manager and Marisa Tomei as a muckraking journalist provide stellar support, while 24 fans will enjoy seeing Gregory Itzin, who portrayed the disgraced President Charles Logan, as the head of the Democratic National Committee. A clandestine, battle-of-wills meeting between Gosling and Clooney late in the film is staged like a thrilling shoot out on a Western frontier. No matter what, Gosling is center stage, as his idealism is diminished, the realities of his chosen career settle in, and his perpetual knowing smile fades from his lips. One can almost imagine Gosling silently deciding to quit politics, as Giamatti urges him to do. Maybe move to Los Angeles, become a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a wheelman by night, become a real human being, and a real hero.