George Clooney sure knows how to pick his roles and this one is right up his alley. Shot almost entirely in Cincinnati, this political drama (based on the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon) is a great exhibit of doing a lot with a little. I can’t imagine the budget on this movie was all that much but with an excellent script and some top notch names, “Ides Of March” is very entertaining and never gets too heavy-handed in political jargon.
The entire film is set during the Ohio Primary where Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney) is running for the Presidency. His staff, led by his campaign manager Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and his second-in-command, Steven Myers (Ryan Gosling), are always trying to stay one step ahead of his Democratic competition. The competitors campaign is being run by Tony Duffy (Paul Giamatti), a grizzled campaign manager who has become somewhat jaded on the political process through the years. In an attempt to thwart Morris’ campaign, Duffy meets with the younger Myers (at one of my favorite Cincinnati bars, Head First!) and attempts to hire him for their campaign. This, in effect, sets off a chain of events that could only happen in the political arena.
I’m dumbing down my critique of the film because I don’t want to give anything away. It is a complex little web that is woven here which includes a campaign intern (played by Evan Rachel Wood), a New York Times reporter (Marisa Tomei) and a state Senator (Jeffrey White). Needless to say, it is a story that plays out well over the time of the film and there isn’t a dull moment in here. Clooney directs and does a fantastic job of using Cincinnati locales (including Xavier & Miami University) to help tell the story. It’s fun for me to see places I see every day in a film and Clooney, being a native, does a great job of highlighting our city. He also does a great job framing his subjects, allowing each actor to do their job without any flash or gimmicks.
There really isn’t a role in here that doesn’t deserve praise. I really enjoyed every aspect of this film but I will praise Ryan Gosling the most. His role demands everything from confidence to uncertainty in a matter of seconds and he can convey both with a single raise of his eyebrow. His Steven Myers is a new kid on the political block and he lets his ego get the best of him. Paul Giamatti is fantastic as the smarmy competition and Evan Rachel Wood is fantastic as the intern with a secret.All in all, a job very well done by this group of fantastic actors!
So far, this is the drama of the year!
Overall Rating: A