In The Ides Of March , Ryan Gosling takes on the role of Stephen Meyers, a junior campaign manager for a seemingly fresh and idealistic Governor (George Clooney), who slowly becomes disillusioned and corrupted by the Machiavellian scheming of campaign politics. Directed by Clooney and based on the play Farragut North, the film is thematically rich, but is let down by dry presentation.
The Ides Of March opens with Stephen Meyers (Gosling) preparing a venue for his candidate Governor Morris to take part in the first debate of the Ohio democratic state primary (A stepping stone on the road to presidential nomination). However, after the debate, an unexpected call from the campaign manager of the rival candidate drops Meyers into the world of deceit and manipulation that lay just beneath the fragile political idealism he had surrounded himself with.
Along this helter skelter into corruption, Meyer encounters and must contend with a self serving journalist (Tomei), his paranoid and jaded senior (Hoffman), a scheming opponent (Giamatti), a naive intern (Wood) and his ‘not all he seems’ dream candidate (Clooney). Each of these characters are complex and flawed, and eventually come face to face with the repercussions of their actions, which affords the film its most compelling theme; consequence. However what is more interesting overall is how they each impact Gosling’s character, and each contribute to his moral decline.
The Ides Of March boasts an outstanding cast, and they all do well with what they’re given. However unsurprisingly it’s Gosling whose performance really shines. Meyers is an introverted character, yet one who initially glows with passion and conviction. Gosling captures his growing disillusionment perfectly, not an easy task given the characters reserved nature.
Despite a tendency to throw constant deadlines, secret meetings and missed calls at the audience, the film never manages to drum up any sense of urgency. Neither does it ever really build a sense of tension, even the kind that would seem to naturally flow from the back room dealings of political campaigning is notably absent. This lends the film an oddly languid pace, especially in its first half. The movie also suffers from a strictly bland presentation, there’s not much to say good or bad, about the camera work, sound design, editing or direction. The production is competent in all these regards, but distinctly flavourless.
The Ides Of March is a bitter parable about consequences, specifically the consequences of sacrificing one’s ideals, despite how inevitable this may be in modern politics. It’s a far more cynical piece than one would expect from Clooney, yet its pessimism is oddly refreshing. Beyond this, and despite its uninspired presentation, It is at its core a compelling character tragedy, one that works particularly well thanks to Gosling’s performance.