Friday, February 03, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Ides of March (2011) **

R, 101 min.
Director: George Clooney
Writers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon (also play “Farragut North”)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle, Gregory Itzin

George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” might look like a good exposé on the corruption inherent in the political process, but under some scrutiny it falls apart as dramatic fiction.  Is corruption inevitable in the political process? It is when there is a plot to serve, that’s for sure.

Clooney has produced some surprisingly good movies for a movie star that still carries the spotlight like a star and not a director and writer. I don’t know if the blame lies in the source material, a play by co-screenwriter Beau Willimon, but Clooney and his writing and producing partner Grant Heslov should’ve fixed the story’s problems when writing their screenplay. They miss a huge opportunity to really skewer the political process in order to skewer their character’s unlikely poor decisions.

Supposedly the story loosely parallels the failed Democratic Primary run by Howard Dean. I wonder which of the campaign managers this came from, the one that derived the Philip Seymour Hoffman character or the Ryan Gosling one. I would think it was the person that Hoffman was based on. His would’ve been a more interesting story than Gosling’s. Gosling’s character seemed to make decisions based upon the turns the plot needed to take rather than ones that grew naturally from the character. Although, it is Hoffman’s character that makes the biggest turn for plot reasons alone.

The movie doesn’t feel organic. Clooney’s presidential hopeful never seems to have the teeth he really needs. That could’ve been an interesting take in itself. Who really has the teeth in a campaign if it isn’t the actual candidate? Gosling’s character is painted into a box, which must been done, but his solution for getting out doesn’t seem to be the one the character they’ve built would choose.

And, while I don’t doubt for a second that a presidential hopeful would be foolhardy enough to sleep with an intern, I find it hard to believe he would make the mistake of sleeping with the specific intern he does here. Don’t try arguing that he might not have known who she was.  There’s no way on Earth that person could’ve worked on his campaign without him knowing it. There would’ve been favors involved, which would make another interesting storyline they could’ve followed but didn’t. I believe the term “epic fail” might be appropriate to describe this film.

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