Monday, February 27, 2012

The Ides of March (2011)

[There are spoilers.  Not trying to make them obvious, but I can't discuss the film without them.]

     I don't think I was supposed to find this crux of this film balanced on so ridiculous a point that I would actually complain about it as it was playing out.  The greatest media mind in recent campaign history is such a dolt that he cannot fathom a plausible reason why he would meet with someone who holds a position with an opposing candidate, never minding that the story has introduced three strong reasons for him to do exactly that.  At the same time, his capability is not so great that his job allows for an insignificant slight to his immediate boss (who is depicted, sadly, as not really doing anything) nor is his complete and total shift in character so repugnant that it keeps him from being let back into the fold and given more authority.
     The Ides of March (2011) doesn't want to spend much time building a plausible structure to its story.  I'm sure those who worked on it found it far too clever to worry about the glaring problems with it.  Likewise, they overlooked the fact that Ryan Gosling can do little more than look good – occasionally adrift – in the presence of actors who actually inhabit their roles, such as Philip Seymore Hoffman and Paul Giamatti.  The best Gosling can do is convince the audience is that young women really are eager to fuck him, but he plays the morning after as though he were a nervous high school junior (good grades, popular, but never had much luck with the ladies) instead of one of the two mean leading a Presidential election campaign.
     Most of the characters get to be stupid to allow the weakly structured story to roll forward.  Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) gets to deliver some poorly crafted speeches well, but he doesn't seem to be allowed to think.  This should make him a poor candidate for President of the United States.  At no point is Morris allowed to exercise good judgment; he instead gets to alternate between a dogmatic fastidiousness to his so-called beliefs and total morale failings.   I get that having the characters be extraordinarily intelligent would distract from what is supposed to be an examination of how individual poor choices can snare these powerful men, but it becomes hard to give credence to the notion that these characters would be in the position of being a serious contender for the office of the President or high level campaign staffers. 
     The language isn't evocative of those either in power or desirous of office.  In this regards, it feels as though the script had been dumbed down so as to not to alienate audiences with the educated lingo these men should be using on a regular basis.  But that means giving up on authenticity or poetic moments, and that hurts the film.
     Oh, and there is another huge problem the script cannot overcome. The daughter of the head of the DNC is working on the campaign, and none of the life-long Democratic politicians or staffers seem to know who she is or take efforts to make sure to limit her involvement (as her father would likely have done if he wanted to maintain an appearance of impartiality between the candidates).  Worse, for being the daughter of a powerful life-long politician, she is hopelessly naive in regards to the egos and wants of men of power.  That she isn't even given something as reasonable as daddy issues as part of her motivation shows that she is not so much a character but a means to moving the poorly planned out plot forward.
     There is some good acting in The Ides of March, but with the poor writing and workman-like (at best) approach to cinematography and editing, it cannot rise about the level of passable.  Maybe this works on a smaller scale, such as the stage, where more attention has to be paid to the characters and the dialogue, but given a larger canvas it only paints a less than earnest mess.  I'm sure those involved thought they had a film that was making a statement, but I doubt that they realized that statement was 'we should do a better job of showcasing the world in which we set our story.'

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