THE IDES OF MARCH (2011)

TMG Scale 9.0     P Factor 0.0     MPAA Rating: R
Starring Ryan Gosling,  George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei

TMG: This film is the Drive of political races. I must admit, for awhile I thought I was just watching George Clooney run for President. Starring and directing a film like this, you cannot resist to get your all your political digs in. Take a few shots at Christianity and religion, dump on big oil while flying a private jet, push for “income redistribution” (a crafty euphemism for more welfare) and oppose all wars as unjust—it is just like the platform of the DNC.  But then the movie gets interesting.

This film is a look inside a modern political machine. It is less about the politics of politics, campaigns and getting votes as it is about the politics inside a political campaign. Candidates and their handlers may all start sincere and with ideals, but kool-aid drinking soon turns to alcohol, sex, cheating and the intoxication of power.

Clooney plays left wing Democrat Governor, Mike Morris running for President. His chief campaign manager is Paul Zara (Seymour Hoffman). Their top public and media manager is the wunderkind, Stephen Myers (Gosling). The top blond seductive intern for the Morris campaign is Molly (Wood)—none other than the twenty year old daughter of the Chairman of the DNC. The Republican side with Sen. Pullman is barely visible other than through its battle hardened and scruffy manager, Tom Duffy (Giamatti). Bouncing between the campaigns is the media, represented by Ida Horowicz (Tomei), a writer for the New York Times. The “Ida” character is the most interesting to me. Ultimately, the  media cares for no one or no ideal. They just want a story and the more scandal the better. I kept thinking of a ditty like “I’d a write this or I’d a write that, but in the end ‘Ida’ don’t care.” It could be a nursery rhyme for journalists.  The Ohio primary is the playground. Bullies abound. Who tells on whom and who comes out the winner?

The film is based upon the play “Farragut North,” by Beau Willimon. The Farragut area of Washington, DC is where all the high priced DC lobbyist and political advisers are born, nurtured and eventually go to reap a lifetime of compromise. Gosling is almost magical as the rising star political adviser and media darling. (I would have nearly traded my own soul to watch this film and later have dinner with George Stephanopoulos.) Gosling’s  character is less the driving force behind events as the observer. His decision to make events happen rather than just observe them is a slippery slope he takes us for a ride on. I loved it!

Robert Redford’s The Candidate (1972) certainly has to be thought of when seeing this film.  But, so does TV’s long running West Wing and most certainly the pseudo Clinton sketch,  Primary Colors (1998).  If you love the intrigue of real Washington politics, and TMG certainly does, you will love this film. There are surprises. Clooney avoids ramming divisive political messages down your throat. I admire him for that. He got his few digs in early and that was enough.  The film settles in on the inside politics of the campaign instead.  It also shows a major Democrat for President in a pretty bad and compromising light. Clooney could have done this to a Republican like Director Rob Reiner overtly did to Republicans and Sen. Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfus) in The American President (1995). Go rent all those films if you missed them.

The point of it all?  You decide.  American politics is a pretty dirty and tough game. It is not for the faint of heart, mind or lack of testicular fortitude–male or female. One Clintonian message came through loud and clear “in the game of Washington politics you can lie, cheat and steal…but you cannot “F” a female intern.”  Future candidates take note.

Joy Lynn: Excellent  filming. I love the way they camera zooms in on Gosling. This is always a good thing! In fact, all the actors were top notch. It seemed very real. If there were any real flaws in this film,  I looked over them.

On the other hand, who doesn’t know that politicians are dirty and manipulative— that one is going to blackmail another, that they all drink the same Kool-aid, and that they all will certainly let you down at some point. Are we supposed to be surprised when young interns have sex with older politicians? Not hardly. The question is who is screwing who?   In the beginning, Gosling  did not appear to be a dirty politician, but once in the game, became a different person.  Is that what it takes to be successful?
I agree with TMG, from what I know about Clooney, the point scored early on probably reflect his liberal style and views.  It is the politics of politics that made this film great and glad they stopped short of pushing too many social views. I would rate 8.0 on the TMG scale.

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