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The Ides Of March—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
October 7, 2011 12:36 PM
21 Comments
  • |


The world of politics provides all the drama—and satiric fodder—any filmmaker could ask for. And even though the public has shown indifference to such movies in recent years, Hollywood keeps making them. The Ides of March has star-power on its side, with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling in the leads, but even if people are attracted to theaters by their presence they’re not likely to leave feeling satisfied. The Ides of March has nothing new to offer in its portrait of the campaign trail, and doesn’t seem quite sure what—

—story it really wants to tell.

Clooney plays a popular governor who’s facing an opponent in the Democratic primary, the final stepping-stone on the way to a presidential run. Philip Seymour Hoffman is his campaign manager, but Ryan Gosling is his number two, a media specialist and political junkie who actually believes in his candidate. The story deals mainly with his education and disillusionment at the hands of smarter, more ruthless professionals—and one character who’s a relative innocent.

George Clooney directs Evan Rachel Wood and Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March.

I can’t write off a film that offers juicy roles to Clooney, Gosling, and Hoffman, as well as Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood. But there are few surprises (let alone shocks) in this back-room tale, although the filmmakers seem to think they’re dealing with dramatic dynamite.

I heard good things about Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North but never got to see it, so I can’t compare this adaptation, which I’m told expands on the play considerably. Willimon is credited with the screenplay along with Clooney (who directed the picture) and his longtime producing partner Grant Heslov.

It’s a shame to see so much talent expended on a film that, while slickly made, is so routine and unmemorable. There have been great political movies over the years, like State of the Union, The Best Man, Primary Colors and Bulworth. The Ides of March simply isn’t in their class.

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21 Comments

  • Margaret | January 23, 2012 8:23 PMReply

    Thoroughly enjoyed the political intrigue and the great cast. I don't understand your negative comments???

  • stephanie | January 18, 2012 5:52 AMReply

    I loved the movie so I wonder @ the negative reviews

  • Michael | November 17, 2011 10:51 PMReply

    I liked it. Maybe it's because I had recently seen "Inception" but I kept looking for circles within circles, betrayals within betrayals. I liked a lot of the clean, empty rooms used for sets. I was especially pleased with the slanting light in the kitchen confrontation, a nod to the old noir films. I recommended it to everyone I knew but maybe I'm just too shallow. [shrug] Oh, well. Guess I'll just go back to enjoying a wider swath of films.

  • Rhonda | October 30, 2011 5:50 AMReply

    I agree with others who note this was a boring film, not a total loss, I had a nap while my friend watched the entire movie. Based on her account, I didn't miss much.

  • mohair | October 28, 2011 6:19 AMReply

    I love George Clooney, but let me give you the essence of this movie in one word: B O R I N G !! What a snooze fest. How on earth did such a poorly-written script get the green light? We watched half of the film, could not stand any more of it, went and got our money back, and went to see THREE MUSKETEERS! Slash zing! go the swords in battle! BOOM! go the cannons from giant flying pirate ships! All backed by non-stop thumping orchestral music to let you know how exciting each moment is! It's silly, loud, stupid, and..... ENTERTAINING!

  • Todd | October 28, 2011 5:22 AMReply

    I hate to break to you. George Clooney works within his limitations, but
    he is a lousy actor.

  • Alex | October 23, 2011 3:43 AMReply

    The writing sucked. Save your money. Would have walked out after the first 10, but were with friends so stayed to the end. Giamatti and Tomei did the best with what they had. Gosling started to look too young for the role at the end - too many slightly too long,dewy eyed shots. Wood and Gosling scenes were painful. Hoffman - why did you say yes to this script?

  • Paul | October 21, 2011 1:23 AMReply

    I thought the movie had a subtle tension and build right after the big reveal. It wasn't perfect, sure, but the realities that set in on Gosling's character were nicely fleshed out by the actor, as he swiftly went into Anakin Skywalker mode to bring the showdown in the kitchen some weight.

    Evan Rachel Wood doesn't seem like she's got a clue when she's out there. Her character was the least believable and each role she's been in has outraced her to the finish. I also didn't believe in her forthright promiscuity towards Gosling in light of her situation.

    All in all, not really that bad. I prefer the darker "State of Play" to this...

  • Patrick M. Gouin | October 20, 2011 4:19 AMReply

    A cold and fascinating film on the backstage antics of american political power. Clooney, the director, either is not interested or is not inclined to showcase the emotions of his characters. Unfortunately, it would elevate the whole in my opinion.
    Still this film is competent to illustrate the relations and conflicts in the modern political world which unfortunately resembles the one we have always known.

  • Kurt Hall | October 19, 2011 8:12 AMReply

    I rather enjoyed this film. I thought the whole cast fit really well aside from George Clooney who was barely in the film for being so involved in the trailers. Ryan Gosling was definitely not as good as he was in Drive but he still torethe screen up in my opinion. Some of the direction behind the camera annoyed me though. Way too many close-ups. Especially the scene in the back of the car with Clooney and his wife talking. I found The Idea of March to not try too hard to confuse the viewers or make it overwhelmingly juicy in the plot. I gave it an 8/10 because I agree that it had some flaws but I found it to still be a competent film.

  • Cjens | October 16, 2011 4:39 AMReply

    I couldn't help feel sorry for Gosling, Hoffman & Giamatti who are all such wonderful and committed actors. They were the only credible contributions to this film. As for the rest, so lame. Real-life politics is at least entertaining while being corrupt. I feel like protesting in front of the film studios in Hollywood chanting "stop taking us for idiots"!

  • Fitz C | October 16, 2011 3:36 AMReply

    After about half-way through the characters started to do very implausible things. That is fatal to this sort of movie. BTW would not investigators trace the source of the pills back to their source? Then everything would gradually unravel. No, sorry it doesn't make sense. Now if only the girl had been a plant for the other side...

    Also, the Clooney character leaves no liberal cliche behind- I was expecting to hear the phrase "green jobs" at any moment...

  • Norm | October 13, 2011 8:05 AMReply

    Bad film, pretty boys can't save..with blinking eyes and crummy script...Bad try, next film , please...Not enough character to study,,,try 'War & Peace."

  • LUcid | October 11, 2011 1:10 AMReply

    I just saw this with the Academy audience of blue hairs who drank the hemlock with glee. They cheered loudly the cast and even one lone applauder for costumes. This was an audience of actors relishing Clooney in their own post-retirement years. Their enthusiasm bespoke their clear lack of rationale in championing a film so messed up with errors and sloppy writing. Actors. All actors.
    I would ask how many writers in that audience?
    Now I'm no writer, but what Ides lacked was a better one.
    My fiancee and I were downright bored for the first half and exercised our eye muscles for the second as we rolled eyeballs incessantly. The logic lines are just silly, predictable and annoying. Too many times we just asked why would someone do this or that. We discussed the errors for an hour following. That just ain't right.
    I was consistently taken out of belief.
    Goodnight and Good luck!

  • Mel Lawrence | October 10, 2011 9:13 AMReply

    I agree with Maltin's review ... I would be even harsher on Clooney's lousy writing and direction ... Puhleez!, almost a third of the film uses close-ups of Goslings face (now demanded in any film he is in) walks up stairs and paths and driving scenes ... If not for Giamatti and Hoffman, I would have walked out ...

  • Bola | October 10, 2011 8:49 AMReply

    Ask yourself: if Wood's character was so traumautized by the Guvner' impregnating her why was she trying to bed the number 3 man on the campaign? Not too much Catholic guilt or moral conflict going on there.

    Sleeping with the intern is the big surprise? Would have been more intersting if she was a plant by the other side sleeping with both of them and trying to expose them. Then Gosling would have had to make a moral decision as to whether to force her the pills to cinch his job with the immoral Guv. If Hoffman found out he could have tested his vaunted loyalty against his moral conviction, and decided if he would leaknthe story
    to Marisa Tomei.

    Compared to Michael Clayton, Clooney's character was one dimensional. The adultery was bland and incidental with an intern who liked to around. At least they couldmhave made her a virgin or something.

    Mr. Malkin is right: the gravitas of the actors sunk the flimsy sceenplay.

    Regards
    F. L. Bola

  • Justify | October 9, 2011 7:49 AMReply

    Maltin nailed it. This movie bored me to tears.

    This movie relies entirely too much on its all-star cast to deliver thrills and suspense, because the predictable plot certainly doesn't do it.

    Clooney portrayed a terribly unmotivating candidate; never once did he transform into his character. He was always George Clooney on screen. The entire theme/message/purpose of this movie entirely played out by the time it get to the middle.

    I love politics. I "get" the message. I don't need "in your face" frills. I understand politics is shady, corrupting, manipulative. Can we develop the characters now?

    No? Well in that case, watch the movie trailer and save yourself the money. It's more exciting and revealing than the film is.

  • StaceyD4 | October 9, 2011 6:53 AMReply

    Seriously?! I saw this movie last night with two friends...and we all absolutely loved it. Unfortunately...I think Mr. Maltin missed the film's point here...was it in a way 'understated'? Certainly...but that's what made the movie so delicious...and satisfying. The beauty was in all the actors (read characters) and their ability to convey their ever revolving and dynamic personalties. Ides of March is a compelling character study...not an in your face, no-brainer entertainment. If that's what you're looking for...go see 'Jackass'.

  • Brett | October 9, 2011 6:02 AMReply

    This is a brutal review. This was one of the two or three films I was eagerly looking forward to at the beginning of the year when this looked like the worst movie season of my lifetime.

    Fortunately, a handful of good films have come out since then and my hopes were no longer riding on the "Ides of March" being a classic.

  • Norm | October 8, 2011 8:16 AMReply

    How about this for a plot twist, Clooney is running for President, but his alter ego "Batman" has ethic problems, and Green Lantern(Gosling) must come to his rescue to help resolve this moral conflict...
    Pow , Bam, Socko, send this to Dreamworks quick...

  • Heloise | October 8, 2011 5:39 AMReply

    well said and I agree, so much so that I just wrote my review up on my blog only as a total spoiler alert LOL.

    The Candidate movie or the book The Politician are much juicier than this pablum.

    thanks

    Heloise
    blogcritics

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