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The Ides Of March
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Reviewed on 2011-10-07
Received[3.5]  out of 4 stars
This drama centers on a 30-year-old hotshot press secretary who becomes a pawn in a well-orchestrated political chess game between campaign managers during the pivotal Ohio Democratic primary.

George Clooney (“Good Night, and Good Luck.”) directs his fourth feature based on the 2008 stage play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon. Willimon’s original work was loosely inspired by Howard Dean’s unsuccessful 2004 presidential bid. Clooney, Willimon and Grant Heslov wrote the slick screenplay that boasts intelligent dialogue.

Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) of Pennsylvania is one week away from a decisive win in Ohio over his rival, Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell) of Arkansas. Morris has a 6% lead in the polls and a victory would give him enough delegates to be the Democratic candidate for President.

Clooney’s campaign is being run by Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman recently seen in “Moneyball”) and press secretary Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling from “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” and “The Notebook”). Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti from “Win Win,” “Barney’s Version,” “Cinderella Man” and “Sideways”) is pulling the strings in the opposing camp.

Political reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei from “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “The Wrestler”) is sniffing around for a story that can change the voter’s minds.

Both campaigns are seeking an endorsement from the influential Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright from “Source Code”).

Stephen gets a crash course in cutthroat tactics when Duffy requests a face-to-face meeting. Their clandestine meeting takes place at a bar. Duffy tells Stephen that he is working for the wrong man. He wants Stephen to switch sides and join the Pullman team. He also tells him that they have Thompson in the bag, because they have promised him a cabinet position as Secretary of State.

The movie’s title refers to the day that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death after being warned in William Shakespeare’s play by a soothsayer to “beware the ides of March.”

The idealistic spin artist Stephen appears to have authored his own demise until he becomes aware of a dirty secret that will turn the tables on the kingmaker and his top henchman.

Stephen lets down his guard when he becomes attracted to and has an affair with Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood from the HBO mini-series “Mildred Pierce”), a pretty 20-year-old intern. Molly happens to be the daughter of the head of the DNC.

Morris is shown on the campaign trail giving stump speeches and saying all the right things to get elected. During back room strategy sessions, Morris comes across as another sleazy politician selling the impossible dream.

With Stephen holding the trump card, a verbal showdown takes place in a hotel kitchen that will change everything.

Gosling is simply superb and deserves a Best Actor nomination. He is a crowd-pleaser that audiences will react to with sympathetic support. The rest of the supporting cast comes up aces as Clooney graciously shares the acting spotlight.

Clooney does a masterful job of directing and deserves year-end awards consideration for his work behind the camera.

Hoffman and Giamatti are believable in their roles turning this cinematic delight into mesmerizing entertainment.

This engaging movie grabs you by the collar and never lets go during its skillfully edited 100-minute running time.

The original score composed by Alexandre Desplat (“The King’s Speech,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Queen”) hits the mark and only makes its presence felt at opportune times.

The movie premiered at the 2011 Venice Film Festival. It was shot on location at the college campuses of Xavier and Miami University in Cincinnati and Oxford, Ohio.

The cynical view of the corruption prevalent in American politics will make this one of the most talked about movies of the year. Oscar may come calling with nominations in various categories including Best Picture, Best Director (Clooney), Best Actor (Gosling), Best Supporting Actor (Hoffman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Original Score.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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