January 12, 2012

Beware the Ides of March. So says the soothsayer to  Caesar, and I to you if what you are after is a tightly coiled thriller that packs a breathtaking punch. For while The Ides of March is often a good movie, it is not once an exciting, involving or educational one. It is safe, smooth and reeks of worthiness. Much like the man who wrote, produced and directed it. You just wish that George Clooney’s obvious passion for the body politic would result in something more intense. That he tear into his subject matter with relish and lay off the polish.

Ryan Gosling stars as Stephen Meyers, press officer to one of those dreamboat Democrats that the West Wing and Hollywood constantly try to convince us exist. Protegee, pawn, player and pseudo-idealist we watch as a pragmatist emerges from the larvae of fantasy as he cleans up his bosses mess, plucks knives out of his own back and discovers the poison that flows beneath the empty rhetoric.

We’re familiar with the format, the stock characters and scenarios of the genre. But the script is too slight, too often exposing the VPL of its stage roots. And while the packaging is sleek it is never properly put to use,  as if the asthetic of the picture has been thought of as a seperate entity.

There is fine support from Philip Seymour-Hoffman and Paul Giamatti as weary, but wily, campaign managers as well as Marisa Tomei as a slippery hack. But Gosling has yet to find a way to channel his presence into something more personable.  He never communicates the internal character of Meyers to the audience, never makes us feel like what we are watching hasn’t been scripted or does anything with the part that makes us go “THAT is why he was cast in this part.”

There is no doubt that in a world saturated in remakes, reboots and redundancies that to see a movie like The Ides of March in the multiplex is a pleasing sight. It’s just a pity that it, itself, is so ‘been there, done that’.


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