Monday, January 23, 2012

The Ides of March (2011)

I just watched The Ides of March, starring and directed by George Clooney.

I enjoyed this adaptation of Beau Willimon's Farragut North (Willimon collaborated with George Clooney and Grant Heslov on the adaptation for the screen.)

You've seen this movie before. Probably you've seen this movie several times.

It's another story about the essential amorality of politics.

So nothing new here thematically or even stylistically.

But the acting is impeccable. The movie is scored subtly and beautifully. Many of the scenes culminate in gorgeously framed stills.

It's chock-a-block with previous Oscar winners and nominees.

Ryan Gosling, doubtless one of the hardest working and most congenial actors out there, ratchets his career up a notch or two with this memorable performance.

But I understand why the movie got some middling or lukewarm reviews by critics who have been around the block more than a few times.

My biggest argument was with the script actually.

SPOILER ALERT: Don't read any further if you want to watch this movie "fresh."

Okay, you were warned.


Too late.

In the pivotal plot turn of the movie, we discover Mr. Nice Guy Liberal presidential candidate has impregnated a twenty year old intern (whose father just happens to be the head of the DNC).

Gosling's character, the presidential candidate's junior campaign manger, takes it upon himself to do the damage control and chauffeur her to an abortion clinic after telling her what she's going to do with her unborn baby. He never for a second considers this might be her choice (she's also Catholic) but instead forces her into this position. He also happens to be sleeping with her.

Anyway, here's where the script makes a dumb move.

Gosling's character is easily making in excess of 100K per annum in his job.

And yet he goes through another campaign co-worker and oh-so-suspiciously cajoles a measly nine hundred dollars from campaign funds to pay for the young woman's abortion.

No. No. And no.

This character would have used his own money to fund this, effectively keeping this powderkeg as deeply buried as possible.

He would never have risked exposure by nickel-and-diming the campaign funds for this. He would have never told the other guy to cook the books over something like that.

Also, in that same scene he pointlessly writes a message to the young woman on a piece of paper--when what he wrote could have easily been spoken aloud (hidden mics or not).

And he had to dramatically meet her in a dark, out of the way stairwell. He could have met her in a sunny park. If nobody is standing within twenty feet of you who gives a shit where you speak?


So dumb sometimes.

I'd give this move an 8 out of 10.

If I had to use a rating system.

It's enjoyable.

But if you miss it, don't worry.

It won't be a life changer. Unless you're a very naive twelve year old or something like that.

P.S. Best dialogue (very quotable) in this movie is Phillip Seymour-Hoffman's barroom speech about what makes a great politician. He employs a number or rhetorical devices (mostly antitheses) which come off beautifully and strike one as the unadultered truth about the qualities which lie behind the cult of personality.


  1. My "willing suspension of disbelief" is often strained by these sorts of details. This is a major subcategory of those. "He/she would know better than that."

    Writers should take more care when writing about characters who are smarter than they are.

  2. I agree.

    I mean I have no deep political experience, but even I could hear that false note.

    My problem (and I guess it's my problem, rather than the actors' problem) is that certain actors get so overexposed in the media, and we hear so much about their personal life--or they espouse so many causes--that I can no longer see them as any character on the screen as themselves.

    I stopped seeing any of the performances of Tom Hanks as anything other than "Tom Hanks" long ago.

    I've discussed this with other people and one guy said to me he sees every actor that way all the time.

    And I thought, "Well, your movie experience must suck ten thousand times worse than mine." lol

    Because I can do the "suspension of disbelief" a lot of the time.

    But then there ARE actors who seem to just play themselves all the time (or most of it) and the scriptwriters realize that and write the script around that "character-self."

    Like Jim Carrey. (Okay, not completely fair--he's done a lot of non-Jim Carrey stuff like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

    But in a slew of movies he seems to just be playing variants of himself.

    It's so strange that acting even exists.

    I could imagine a universe in which humans appeared and never even thought of inventing acting.

    Or maybe those would be Vulcans.

    1. Sean Connery always seems to be playing himself. The accent's always the same, whether he's a Scot, a Russian, or a Spaniard.

      Usually I manage not to mentally type-cast people. I remember when I saw my first episode of "House," I wondered if I'd keep seeing Hugh Laurie as dimwitted Prince George who keeps misplacing his socks (from "Blackadder the Third") but by halfway through the episode I'd forgotten all the Prince and his silly powdered wig. Likewise when I started watching "Monk" I thought I'd never see Ted Levine (Captain Stottlemeyer) as anything but Buffalo Bill in "Silence of the Lambs," but even Buffalo Bill was soon forgotten.

      Though I've never been able to stop seeing Keanu Reeves as Ted. Or Bill. Whichever one he played.

  3. Lol. When actors suck at accents it's really sad. I like the comedian Nick Swardson's own comedy but he was in yet another Adam Sandler movie (they're old friends apparently) and he was trying to play a wacky German accent guy. And an eight year old could do better. But I love to watch old episodes of his bizarre comedy show. Very inspired. I particularly love his gay robot sketches and his Wheelchair Cat, Trust Fund Kitty who inherited all the money... If you're not in the mood for a cat sketch skip it. I failed at watching LIFETIME television for women and gay men. I ended up watching another sociopath lie to journalists on ID tv for an hour.