One might wish that more on-screen time was given to Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in The Ides of March – the latest flick brought to us by the Hollywood mogul Gorge Clooney. Knowing how much potential the film has with the quad of male leads it is a little disappointing that the story focuses almost exclusively on the Clooney-Gosling duo. But that’s the consequence of following almost word by word the play Farragut North on which the screenplay to The Ides was based.
Truth be told, the film is enjoyable through most of its duration, mostly because of its nicely done editing and clear, yet conventional aesthetics. There is unfortunately less excitement in the storyline department. The first half of the film feels like one long sequence taken out of an HBO drama. It has some very promising stylistic features and as it moves at its considerably slow pace, it feels as if it may have been building up to something grand. But for a feature film which The Ides of March is, the flick runs out of steam pretty quickly. In addition to that, the twist which drives the second half of the narrative is both predictable and underwhelming.
I was reminded of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanours as the film was heading towards its climax. An affair with a young woman and its moral as well as pragmatic consequences is the driving force for both films. But while Woody Allen shapes his storyline attempting to find out what is the purpose of guilt in our lives, Clooney stops at asking a faint and clichéd, “are human beings moral?” Stephen Meyers (Gosling) compromises his integrity for a career in politics, while Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) reinforces his unethical act of adultery by making unscrupulous arrangements with Meyers. The matter of guilt does not even enter the universe in which Meyers and Morris rival their male egos, and perhaps the lack of that aspect of consciousness in both men’s thinking is the director’s way of bluntly stating that politics is a game only for those who are able to silence their consciousness. But if so, the film falls into its own intellectual trap, as for anyone who has even the slightest idea about the world in general, such an assumption about politics is a no-brainer.
Even if we are to speak strictly about The Ides’ relevance to other films, we are to discover that the same theme was discussed in almost all political dramas, beginning with the all-time classic Mr Smith Goes to Washington, ending with Good Night and Good Luck, or more recently, Lions for Lambs.
The last scene of the film in which Stephen Meyers is about to give an interview, leaves us with the man staring directly into the camera. The mechanism of an open ending has its use in a variety of genres, but in case of The Ides of March feels completely out of place. It seems to be regarded as a mysterious and exciting way to finish the film, assuming that the audience will wonder over the meaning of that last glance. Instead, the ending feels rushed and inconclusive, as if Clooney did not quite know what else to add. Interestingly enough Clooney might have proven something that he did not intend – that films themselves are very much like politicians. With its amount of Golden Globes’ nominations and the potential success at the Oscars, one can only compare The Ides of March to Clooney’s character, Governor Morris. Similarly to Governor’s political campaign, the film’s true tour de force is its marketing promotion. Will it be enough to grant Mr Clooney the grand prize?