By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin October 7, 2011 at 12:36PM
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.
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.