The Ides of March, the political thriller starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney, marks its tenth anniversary since its 2011 release.
This film, based on Farrugut North by Beau Willimon, takes a behind-the-scenes look at political campaign drama. However, in as much as it is inside baseball, the film also focuses on Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris’s sexual affair and how it nearly ends his presidential campaign. Politics can be an ugly event and this film is no exception. There is so much tension throughout the film. Gov. Morris isn’t the only Democratic presidential candidate. He’s running against Sen. Ted Pullman (D – Ark.) (Michael Mantell) following the withdrawal Sen. Franklin Thompson (D – N.C.) (Jeffrey Wright). Thompson has 365 delegates at play and whoever he endorses will become the next Democratic nominee for president.
It isn’t just that campaign managers are meeting with each other. They are also dealing with leaks to the press. Morris’s junior campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) meets in secret with Pullman campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giammati). Duffy offers Meyers a job but he turns it down and doesn’t even tell his mentor and boss, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), about the meeting. While all of this is going on, Meyers starts a relationship with a campaign intern, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood). Her father just happens to be DNC chair Jack Stearns (Gregory Itzin). Did I mention campaign drama? There’s a lot of it going on! This doesn’t even begin to take into account NYT reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei).
While the film is ten years old, I’ll keep some spoilers away just in case you haven’t watched. What I can tell you is that you’re in for a ride, for better or worse.
Clooney was putting in some solid work in late 2011. Not only did he have The Ides of March but he turned in an Oscar-worthy performance in The Descendants, too. The Ides of March is clearly one of his best directorial outings by far. The film features a beautiful script matched with solid performances from the ensemble cast and beautifully shot photography from Phedon Papamichael. You can feel the tension in the room at every corner no matter who is meeting with who! When we aren’t focused on the meetings and tension, there’s some beautiful political speeches on screen. Several years ago, George Clooney’s name came up as a potential Democratic candidate in Kentucky. He didn’t run, of course, but his work in the film shows the type of charisma he’d deliver on the campaign trail.
Like any political film, there are some commentators playing themselves. Some of these cameos have not aged well–particularly Charlie Rose and Chris Matthews. It’s ironic because the very behavior that brought them down is similar to what threatened to derail Morris’s campaign. Well, they didn’t cause anyone to overdose and commit suicide in their hotel bedroom but they were still behaving badly.
During my college years, I was split between comedy and politics. It is true that at one point, I was planning an eventual run for POTUS but those days are gone. Sorry to disappoint all my high school classmates! But anyway, the film’s political drama is exactly the type of thing that political junkies want to see. By junkies, I mean the people that are constantly working on campaigns more so than the casual volunteer. While there is the sexual affair aspect to the film, the film did not disappoint overall.
The Ides of March may feature a lot of inside baseball and appeal to political junkies but this film is more than that.
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
SCREENWRITERS: George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
CAST: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Maria Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood