It’s very hard for me to get into anything involving politics: the news, debates, conversations, etc. Yes, I am one of those people. Just try to get me involved; I will give myself 5 minutes tops before the blank stare completely takes over my face as the droning noise of speech is washed away by thoughts of something more appealing to me, like food. Every once in a while I might throw out some thoughts on my moral standings, but it will be up to the other individual to connect it to the party in charge, the policies running the country, etc. I try, but I just wasn’t built for politics.
There are those like me who just can’t keep a firm grasp on politics, and then there are those who are so strongly opinionated about their beliefs that just hearing them argue their cause makes you want to take a “vote for so and so” sign and smack them over the head with it. Two groups, both most likely equally hesitant to see The Ides of March due to its politically driven story. But if you can get past this, then you may be surprised by what’s truly being presented.
On paper, the film can be described as centering on a small fraction of the road to becoming president as a team works towards getting their candidate into the lead spot over the competition’s as the Democratic nominee. And to start, it really is just this. As we watch the worker bees going about their tasks, in a way the film is very exclusionary to my non-political group of viewers as the lingo asks for a decent understanding of politics to follow the dialog, similar to Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps with stock talk and Battle: Los Angeles with its military jargon. Luckily, there is more to the film than just the need to take a stance and make a statement with a politically driven script.
Within the editing of the film, the set-up of shots and set pieces, as well as music choices, there is plenty here to create a symbolic undertone to what is being presented. Many scenes are played out with a strong drum beat of a battle march, an entire conversation takes place silhouetted in front of a gigantic American flag (though the composition of the shot keeps it from being over the top), while in another shot the corruption of the political game is further symbolized by a character shaving his neck as a certain cut-throat event is brushed under the rug. These choices further the corruption and nature of the political world, creating something far more interesting than what could have been produced on the story alone.
Though the film shines spotlights on certain common known characteristics of the political world, as well as connections to current events, from a candidate making huge promises for what he wants the United States to become under his care, or a certain scandal of years past, it does not seem to be a commentary on certain individuals in the machine so much as the machine itself, as a whole. In other words, it is not about Politics with a capital P, “The Man” is not here to fight, it is simply about human nature, which is how a non-politically-savvy person such as myself is still able to connect to the film. To break it down simply, the film follows Ryan Gosling’s character, a press secretary who truly believes whole-heartedly in the man he is backing and what he can do for the country. However, as more and more unfolds, in becomes clear that idealism will always be deflated as reality sets in, a fact that will make the politically ignorant just as cynical about the system this country functions around as those well aware of how the world works. An understanding that will show the individual that to survive they must become as broken as the system itself.
The story is nothing new as films go that depict the world of politics. Politicians and those who help to get them to where they hope to be are dirty!? How can it be!? But alas, it is true. However, not many films like this have the cast assembled for The Ides of March. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti play press secretaries backing different candidates, with Ryan Gosling working with Hoffman on team George Clooney. Clooney is the perfect casting of a man who exudes perfection and charm (though he might have had something to do with this considering he is also the director), and it is easy to believe that he would be a strong contender for the presidency of the US because of these traits, and the inability to believe that a man like him is capable of evil. However, as many films seem to go lately, the man who steals the show is Gosling. Just turning in an amazing career highlight in Driver, Gosling once again plays someone who can not be underestimated for the lengths he is willing to go for what he believes in once the truth of the world sets in, ranging from a flirty smooth talker who knows what he is doing to someone who could kill you with a glance when things start to fall from his reach. Also deserving mention is Evan Rachel Wood. This character could have easily been a throw away role just included as a plot device had it been filled with someone of lesser talent, but Wood gives her character (an intern working in Clooney’s campaign) a superior place in the story to Hoffman and Giamatti thanks to her ability to make her character the most sympathetic of the bunch.
In the end, no matter the stance you take in the world of politics, do yourself the favor and give this movie a chance for the acting alone. It shows that the political world isn’t a well-tuned machine at all because each individual part has its own goals, aspirations, desires, etc, and that’s why it is corrupt, because human nature has been corrupted. In other words, don’t hate the game, hate the player.
Final Grade: B+ Follow @BewareOfTrees