Clooney film depicts hardball politics
A haunting portrayal of hardball politics hit theaters Friday with George Clooneyâs latest film The Ides of March. The film captures the true complexities of campaign life through a slick staffer, Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), working on a presidential campaign for Democratic Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney).
Stephen is young and bold. People love him even when they hate him.Â Despite his charming and idealistic character, he falls into the temptations of power and a desire to win.
Screenwriters Beau Willimon, Grant Hezlov and George Clooney ingeniously crafted a plot exposing the simple truth: Not all is fair in love and politics.
Power relations start from the very bottom, deals are made on every level and lives are ruined when the truth gets out.
To add more credibility, Willimon claims the fictional Stephen is loosely based on Willimonâs friend, political strategist and former USC adjunct professor Jay Carson, who worked on Howard Deanâs 2004 presidential campaign.
Though Carson admits to inspiring the basis for Stephenâs character, he points out the character is supposed to represent the ethical, moral and political choices politicians and staffers must face on the road.
âUsually political campaign [films have] a good guy and a bad guy, and they are fighting with each other and the good guy wins,â Carson said. âThatâs not how the real world works. Thatâs what [the writers] do really well, understanding that politics, like most things, isnât binary.â
Clooney, Heslov and Willimon craft a dynamic screenplay, one that uses witty dialogue and fluid segues, lending the film its quick and engaging pace â mirroring the rhythms and stresses of the electoral process.
In the film, Stephen, like Carson, begins to understand how the game is played. As the narrative progresses, he is dirtied from the mess around him.
âWhenever you are dealing with something where there is as much at stake as there is on a presidential campaign, itâs going to get very tense and there will be very big pressure, and a lot of the decisions that you make have enormous consequences,â Carson said.Â âSometimes the ends justify the means with the decisions that you have to make.â
The Ides of March feels like a movie saturated in melodrama, but the dark bartering that occurs between opposing sides mixed with the filmâs semi-juvenile dialogue ultimately entices.
A cast of star-studded actors further bolsters the filmâs verity, including actors such as Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright.
Giamatti, who plays the GOP senior political adviser, outstandingly portrays the ruthless face of Morrisâ competition. Giamatti is one of the filmâs catalysts and renders more deviousness to accompany the filmâs overarching themes of mistrust and betrayal.
In one instance, Giamatti offers Myers a shady deal. Stephen must decide between loyalty and curiosity and he chooses the latter. For Stephenâs boss, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), loyalty is all that matters. After a surprising confrontation, Stephen is faced with yet another difficult decision: remain loyal or bring everyone down with him.
The over-dramatized plot development is supposed to paint a picture of the cutthroat world in which politicians and staffers interact, but in the end, Hollywoodâs fictitious, dramatic ideals win over reality.
âNone of that stuff ever happened to me,â Carson said.Â âThat is Hollywood taking things to another level because in truth compressing what really happens on a campaign into a movie is impossible. Campaigns last 18 months; [the film] takes place over seven days.â
Carsonâs claim is noticeable in the film. At times, Stephen and Paul seem like farfetched caricatures of political strategists and The New York Times journalist Ida (Marisa Tomei) is depicted as a ruthless, stab-you-in-the-back type of reporter.
There are noticeable, albeit minor, flaws in the film that might make it hard for viewers uninterested in politics to sit through all 101 minutes.
The film features awkward drama and misplaced aesthetic ploys. Scenes of seductive, barely legal interns and long walks to offices, restaurants and hotels make it feel like Clooney, as a director, is trying too hard.
The cinematography, courtesy of Phedon Papamichael, is engaging for the most part â stunningly capturing physiognomy-centered close-ups that flesh out the movieâs more human themes of cutthroat competition and survival of the fittest â some scenes, however, are unnecessary and even fail to evoke pathos.
In one scene, Stephen sits in his car temporarily mourning an internâs tragic suicide. Raindrops drape his windshield and fall like tributaries onto his face, making it look like heâs crying â the scene is not dramatic and is rather distracting when considering the overall direction of the film.
The film ultimately redeems itself of its minor flaws. The drama and cinematography are held together by hypnotic segues that utilize voiceovers and the movieâs soundtrack.
In the end, The Ides of March will leave viewers with a new look at the dog-eat-dog world of politics. The moral of the story: Democratic and Republican nominees are not the only politicians â do not underestimate the staffers; they are the men and women who really run Washington.
Despite all shady deals, the high pressure and the double-dealings, Carson said he still believes in the system.
âItâs a tough business,â Carson said. âIt can be an unforgiving business, but ultimately I think we have the best system of government in the world and there is more opportunity, there is more equality and there is more freedom for individuals.â