Zack's Review of The Ides of March
The Ides of March(2011)
It's a well-written, well-performed story that's crafted in a fairly boring manner. Gosling proves he's the cream of the crop for today's leading-male brand actor, Clooney hides dark secrets behind that smug grin just as we'd expect, and this film wins the award for realizing that Hoffman and Giamatti are Gemini twins in the cosmic family of brilliant character actors. The dialogue feels fresh and relevant without being contrived, and the bits of political rhetoric are just annoying enough to feel truthful. The story may be full of buzz issues and dramatic cliche, but in a political sphere where a war of empty words can still feel razor sharp, personal, and devastating to those of us who "drink the koolaid" for certain candidates or issues, it matches the setting well and, moreover, allows us to actually decide whether we like our protagonist and his counterparts or not -- a decision so often forced upon us in films no matter how flawed our hero might be. That said, Clooney's direction feels rather choice-less, particularly early on, with a few exceptions -- Gosling's silhouette overpowered by a giant American flag, an unseen scene in the back of a campaign car, and a slow pan through the world's creepiest kitchen among them -- but the impulse to just let his talented cast do their work in front of a couple cameras was certainly a good one. Finally, I'd suggest training yourself to substitute your favorite non-mainstream American political parties every time they say "Democrat" or "Republican" (Bull-Moose vs. The Rent Is Too Damn High, perhaps?), or whatever else you need to do, because the film clearly isn't about any particular affiliation or stance, and I've heard too many people complain about its simplification or inaccuracy towards party stereotypes. What it successfully deals with in its political metaphor is our most basic human impulse: self-preservation. Stories rarely get more compelling than that.