‘The Ides of March’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated December 12th, 2014 at 10:06 pm,

The Ides of March Reviews The Ides of March Review

In the end, The Ides of March is a movie that will likely only appease the most die-hard political pundits in the crowd.

The Ides of March was adapted from the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon, which was itself loosely based on the 2004 Democratic primary of Governor Howard Dean.  If there is one thing to be said about this film adaptation of Willimon’s play, it’s that its Broadway origins are glaringly apparent – a fact that will delight some viewers, but will ultimately leave others yawning in their seats.

The story follows Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), an idealistic young campaign staffer working on the presidential campaign of  Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), a man whose promises of real change and clean politics have energized many of the young staffers who work for and support him. The film follows Team Morris’ hard fight to win the pivotal state of Ohio in the Democratic primary. As Myers floats along in his euphoric state of political idealism – believing that he is truly in the corner of a “good” candidate – he learns hard lessons about the reality of American politics, and ultimately comes to recognize it for the corruptive, immoral dogfight it truly is.

Clooney directed Ides of March as well as starring in it, and while he’s far from being a technical wizard, the actor has proven himself to be competent at the helm (see: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). Here, Clooney wisely surrounds himself with more technically proficient talent like cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (Walk the Line, Pursuit of Happyness, W., 3:10 to Yuma), and in that sense, The Ides of March is a good-looking and well-crafted film. Unfortunately, while the visual and technical components are strong, the script Clooney co-wrote with his Good Night, and Good Luck collaborator Grant Heslov is not as successful in translating a dialogue-heavy stage play into an exciting movie experience.

Snappy banter and (somewhat) interesting plot and character developments are definitely the strong points of The Ides of March script. The downside is that this movie still feels very much like a stage play (i.e., static scenes of people sitting around talking) and the subject matter is now so dated that the movie, as a whole, comes off as a feature-length report on old news. Notions like ‘politics is a dirty game’ or ‘there are no noble politicians’ or ‘the game never changes’ are by now so ingrained in our cynical cultural zeitgeist, that watching Gosling’s character develop from a naive idealist into a cynical political player feels about as revelatory as a headline about another political scandal (read: not at all).

The Ides of March Gosling Hoffman Tomei Minghella The Ides of March Review

Gosling, Hoffman, Tomei and Minghella in ‘Ides of March’

What keeps the film going are the performances of the ensemble cast. While Gosling’s character feels somewhat outdated, the actor plays him earnestly as a man whose passion and conviction ultimately get swallowed by his cunning and ambition. Clooney appears only briefly throughout the film, but conveys the gray shades of a seasoned politician well – as does Jeffrey Wright in the role of a senator playing both sides for the sake of his own political advancement. Evan Rachel Wood serves well as the pretty little intern who becomes fodder for the dirty game, Max Minghella is fine playing a well-meaning but oblivious aid, and Marissa Tomei is strong in the few scenes she has, playing a brass-balled (and ultimately prophetic) reporter who tries to cut through all the spin to get at the so-called “truth.”

The strongest two figures in the ensemble, though, are undoubtedly Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, who play rival campaign managers. On his own, each actor nails the task of delivering some of the heavier monologues about the nature of politics, while simultaneously keeping those scenes dynamic and interesting. When (briefly) onscreen together, Hoffman and Giamatti have an exciting chemistry that is totally contained within a few exchanged glances or brief quips. Their roles also feel like the most authentic and relevant, since their characters are the ones who provide the clearest and most truthful insight into what the political process is all about.

The Ides of March George Clooney The Ides of March Review

George Clooney in ‘The Ides of March’

On the subject of politics: there are many people who will have trouble separating the subject matter of this film from George Clooney’s real life political dogma – but they needn’t be concerned that this is some sort of ‘pro-left, anti-right’ propaganda film. If anything, Ides of March takes a hard, cynical jab at the Democratic party, showcasing the same back-room dealings and moral lapses that the Republican party is often accused of. The point the film makes is very clear: modern politics (as a whole) is a dirty game, and anyone thinking they can come in and change it into something uncompromised, earnest and noble will never survive long enough in the race to do so. It’s kind of a dark outlook to have – but one that probably rings true for many Americans today.

In the end, The Ides of March is a movie that will likely only appease the most die-hard political pundits in the crowd. For most everyone else, an hour and a half watching people discuss the nature of modern American politics will probably be as fun and insightful as a night spent watching C-SPAN.

Need something to help sway your vote on whether or not to see The Ides of March? Watch the trailer below, then cast your vote about how well the film does its job:

[poll id=”201″]

The Ides of March is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. Rather see a followup to Drive

    I loved Drive

  2. This looks like something that I would enjoy in the comfort of my own home instead of in the theater. I really couldn’t see spending $10 to see a political drama. I save my theater cash for big budget SFx films simply because the SFx need to be seen at least once on the big screen. Political dramas such as this work fine in a home setting.

    • You’re wrong, Andy. This is a well told story.

  3. I don’t think I could ever watch any modern political drama coming out of Hollywood these days. I like that it’s an original story. There are certainly not many mainstream movies that are anymore. But, Clooney in real life has a smugness about him and his political leanings for me not to have an already biased opinion of the movie. I am not saying I can’t change my mind about it. But it would be difficult for me to want to even pick it up in the first place with how slanted Hollywood is about politics.

    • @Nautius – to be fair, both Clooney and “Hollywood” take a balanced stance in this film, which is that politics as a whole is dirty. No one agenda or party are being favored. If anything the Democratics take the majority of the criticism.

      That’s pretty much as good as it gets in the movie industry.

  4. I can do balanced. I agree with Andy though. This is a wait for DVD movie.

  5. WOW I was expecting a better review for this film but I guess it’s just what it is. It’s such an excellent cast though so I’m going to see it in the theater either way but I suppose I shouldn’t be expecting much. I’ll be the judge!

  6. Shocked at the SR review. Most reviewers are being very positive it is getting nothing short of great reviews and everything about it looks fantastic I’ll be watching this one in the theaters and loving it.

  7. Mmmm, I don’t know Kofi…I enjoyed the hell out of watching Ryan Gosling trying to hang on to the last shreds of his tattered ideology (hope that’s spelled right). And I thought it ended very powerfully. Sure, the theme is a little worn, but…it was just enjoying as hell to watch.

    As for the characters, you gotta throw Gosling in there with Giamatti and Hoffman. Dude did his thing…again. Clooney, Marisa…mneah, not so much.

  8. Is there gonna be an “ending discussion” page for this? i think the ending was either a really in your face statement about the nature of politics or it’s left it open i’d like to ..ya know..be told my opinion is wrong or something

    • yeah, the ending was pretty disappointing i thought. it was such a copout in my opinion. either show gosling’s character give an interview about how great the candidates are and all that, or make it a huge reveal by having gosling’s character tell “the truth” behind the whole intern thing. you kind of felt it building up to that he might tell the camera about the intern thing and completely ruin everyone’s political career, because all of those candidates and people were completely vulnerable to him doing that at that moment. either choice in the movie would have made sense, but the fact that they didn’t do either was kind of an unnecessary teaser and detracted from the movie as a whole in my opinion. other than that, i thought the movie was pretty well done. kofi once again is overly critical of a well-made and enjoyable movie, and yet he still gives it three stars…kofi, why are you so willing to give lesser movies the benefit of the doubt, but yet you are so critical of movies made by big-name movie makers? it’s kind of strange. here’s your overall assessment of the film:

      “In the end, The Ides of March is a movie that will likely only appease the most die-hard political pundits in the crowd. For most everyone else, an hour and a half watching people discuss the nature of modern American politics will probably be as fun and insightful as a night spent watching C-SPAN.”

      you would you give an hour and a half of C-SPAN three stars?

      • I totally agree

  9. Did anyone notice that at the beginning they were talking about what the “dirty Republicans” do in their campaigning and that they (the Democrats) need to start being less “nice” and do the same thing…maybe the subtle message was that we are getting ready for the next election and giving license to them (the Democrats) to do their ususal dirty tactics.

  10. I agree with Kofi’s assessment. While the film was very good, if you are not into politics or political movies, you would more than likely fall asleep. I saw 3 movies this weekend (Real Steel, this movie, and 50/50); out of all of them, for me Real Steel was the most enjoyable but the other 2 had the best acting and story. I was surprised that, knowing Clooney, this wasn’t a slam on the Republicans. 3/5 would be my score.

    • Wow we are pretty much exact opposites here. I’ve seen all three as well now and I gotta say Real Steel was just bad IMO. It was so cheesy even the great charm of Hugh couldn’t save it. Just bad.

      50/50 Was the most enjoyable, but I really really liked Ides Of march it’s an Oscar Contender Imo and easily deserves a 4/5 minimum.

  11. The story needed a twist or a surprise. The politics is dirty theme wasn’t enough to make this worth going to the movies.

  12. I have to agree with Helen, I did notice the “dirty republican” and less “Nice” tactic that was skewed in the scrypt, had to be from Clooneys leanings which in reality is not that at all on the Democrat side. In fact what they de-cry (the democrats) they are the worst violaters.

  13. This movie applies the now overused and lazy tactic of leaving multiple questions unanswered and leaving the viewer to debate what actually happened. Worse still, they play it safe and let you decide the ending. Why does Hollywood think this makes for great cinema? Can someone escrow a pair and make a concrete statement? Movie synoosis: “Politics is dirty, and to survive you need to be dirty as well.”. Here’s 5 minutes of great acting from supporting characters. You decide the ending so we don’t have to…sigh.