The Ides of March

By Geoff Ratliff

Ryan Gosling is killing the game right now! In 2011, he is delivering stand out performances in quality movies the way Lil’ Wayne drops mix tapes. Gosling is putting everyone is Hollywood on notice that he is coming for that #1 spot, even though some of his contemporaries are showing no sign of slowing down either. Gosling has been in the game for a while now, and I first took notice of his considerable talent in 2006’s Half Nelson, a tremendous film about a junior high school teacher with a drug abuse problem. Truthfully Gosling started to become a household name after 2004’s The Notebook, but the type of roles that he took subsequently definitely held him back from certain stardom; and being mentioned with the likes of Damon, Affleck, Wahlberg, and DiCaprio – the closest things I can call contemporaries without insulting Gosling’s considerable talent. Someone has obviously convinced Gosling that it is time for him to seize control of the fleeting title of Hollywood’s “it” leading man because this year’s trifecta of cinematic gold has vaulted him clear to the top of the list, and nowhere is this more evident than in his latest role in The Ides of March.

The film – based on the play “Farragut North” written by Beau Willimon – follows the story of Stephen Myers, played by Gosling, a political media consultant working on the Presidential campaign of Governor Mike Morris (played by George Clooney). Meyers is a seemingly principled young man who has managed to maintain his sense of morality and dignity while embarking on a career in the political machine. His principles are tested during a couple of key moments in the story, but none more so than when he is faced with a decision on how to handle some scandalous news involving the Governor. Without a great deal of thought, you can probably guess not only what the scandal is but how the mess will play out, which leads to a couple different conclusions you can make about this film.

If you are not particularly in tune with the inner workings of Washington and it’s political system, you’ll probably think that this movie was fantastic. The movie was incredibly well cast with predictably great performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman as Morris’ campaign manager and Meyers’ boss Paul, Paul Giamatti as rival campaign manager Duffy, and Evan Rachael Wood as an intern working on the Morris campaign. Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright also contribute some powerful, if not brief, performances as a New York Times political reporter and a Democratic congressman respectfully. Clooney also continues his trend of delivering well-directed films with his third shot from the lead chair, but the acting and directing are not the problems with this film.

Ultimately, The Ides of March fails to give us anything we haven’t seen in a political thriller before. Everything about it is exactly as you’d expect it to be. No interesting plot turns, no in-depth look at a hot button issue waiting to be further explored, nothing. At the end of the day, it’s just a well acted, beautifully directed, straight forward piece of cinematic blah. Even the ending seems abrupt as if they wanted to pull the curtains on the charade before the audience caught wind.

If you’re a fan of any or all of the actors involved in this piece, you will not be disappointed by their performances, especially Gosling who clearly proves that he is leading man material. If nothing else, I walked away from the film with high expectations for his next role, but their was a greater opportunity to go deeper with this one, and it was simply missed.

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