Flush thine integrity down the toilet all ye that enter politics.
Based on the 2008 play Farragut North by playwright Beau Willimon, The Ides of March is a political thriller that follows the tension developing between an idealistic deputy campaign manager, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), and the equally idealistic candidate for whom he works, Pennsylvania governor Mike Morris (George Clooney).
Morris is on the hunt to become the democratic presidential candidate and is leading the polls by a slim margin as he and his opponent Arkansas senator Ted Pullman head into Ohio. While campaigning to win the Buckeye state each man is also trying to enlist the support of North Carolina Democratic Senator Franklin Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) and the 365 convention delegates that back him. An association with Thompson would all but seal a victory for whomever he sides with. The rub is that Thompson wants a backroom deal that guarantees him a plum seat in the new administration. The notion of Thompson selling his endorsement to the highest bidder rankles Morris, but nevertheless doesn’t dissuade Morris’s campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) from encouraging him to strike an accord with Thompson.
As the campaign hits its full stride, Meyers gets a call from Pullman’s campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) to meet. Meyers is well aware of the optics in meeting with the enemy camp, but curiosity (and hubris, Zara would later go on to say) gets the best of him. The meeting is a Machiavellian stroke of genius for Duffy as the meeting goes onto have much deeper implications for a number of people on Morris’s side.
Throw an intern into the political mix as Meyers becomes sexually involved with a young woman named Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and complicate it by making her father the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and things really start to unravel for the “good” guys. Through his relationship with Stearns, Meyers discovers a side of Morris that threatens to jeopardize each of their careers.
As both Meyers and Morris become embroiled in an ever deepening game of cat and mouse, which begins to erode all of the noble ideals that each man stood for at the beginning of the film, each must decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to maintain their tenuous hold on the prospects of power.
The film alludes to the day when Caesar was betrayed by his trusted aide Brutus, and much like that plot the film incorporates multiple characters and many threads of narrative. Unlike the death of Caesar, though, the film does not coalesce into a dramatic conclusion underscoring the death of a political man, but the death of man’s integrity when entering the political ring.
The Ides of March is a great story that provides a decent level of intrigue. The acting is believable and Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Stephen Meyers’ gradual evolution (or de-evolution, as some might say) is remarkably seamless. I do, however, find the movie a bit jaded. I prefer to believe that some politician out there is going to come along and really knock everyone’s socks off with a great mix of ideas and integrity. Someone who is willing to let go power if he or she is unable to execute their mandate. This person just hasn’t made it onto the scene yet.
If you like movies that are story driven, this is worth seeing.
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