THE IDES OF MARCH (George Clooney)
*may contain a little bit of spoiler
Politics is a dirty game. If you want to preserve your conscience, integrity, and/or whatever values you may have left in your body, do not enter it at all costs. In order to succeed in a political career, it seems that the accepted practice is to get results no matter the consequence. In fact there is no arena more brutal in human existence than a political arena because the players are all under the guise of fancy suits and fake smiles.
Clooney's latest turn as a director (and co-writer) dabbles into politics with the premise of idealism, as embodied by the story's protagonist Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), a young, driven, and brilliant deputy campaign manager to Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) who's in it to become the next United States president. In fact this is nothing new, since the case of the young idealist losing his innocence to the unforgiving social and political system is inevitable, and such is exactly what happens here in THE IDES OF MARCH. However, the expected outcome isn't really a giveaway; we know it's going to be grim, but Clooney and co. have more aces up their sleeves.
The Ides of March historically pertains to the 15th day of the month of March in the Roman calendar, or more specifically, the event in which Julius Caesar was murdered as a result of a plot orchestrated by Brutus and many other co-conspirators. THE IDES OF MARCH (the film) also deals with betrayal- the betrayal of Morris' senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) by Meyers by talking to their opponent Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) in what first seemed to be a harmless meeting; the blackmail of reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) that led to Meyers' being thrown out of the campaign; the revelation as to who really leaked the secret meeting of Meyers and Duffy; the unfolding of Duffy's real intentions; the involvement of a young intern (Evan Rachel Wood) in the equation and her possible use as leverage against Morris; Meyers' disillusionment of his hero (Morris), and; Meyers' ultimate payback.
The element of betrayal is crucial in the narrative because it sets in motion the chain of events that will unmask the true face of each character, what their motivations are and where their allegiances lie. Whether or not Morris is still worthy of the presidency after what Meyers uncovered about him is beside the point; what THE IDES OF MARCH emphasizes is that people are flawed, and this truth must enable us to weigh for ourselves if we should still endow someone the power to govern us, or to represent us based on hard truths. But how often do we really see hard truths? Is the media giving us enough of these? Is it giving us any hard truth at all?
Moreover, we see Meyers in the end triumphant, but broken. Meyers is a changed man. The idealism is gone, replaced with an insatiable thirst for self-righteousness.The ends justifies the means. The governor gives in to a nobody, and maybe, we can offer Morris the benefit of the doubt. All men make mistakes, and Morris is no exception.
Whilst watching THE IDES OF MARCH, one can't help feeling that Clooney inserted his own ideology on governance, with his character Morris delivering speech fueled with such conviction. Self-important? Perhaps, but still worth hearing anyway.
Clooney's biggest assets in THE IDES OF MARCH is the tightness of the narrative and the way he pieced together the elements. The lighting is overtly dramatic (the use of silhouette to highlight the two sides of the characters is most noticeable) and Clooney makes use of huge symbols (Gosling and Seymour Hoffman converses as a big backdrop of the American flag is seen may in fact be a satire on patriotism and trust) to get his message across. Molly Stearns' (Evan Rachel Wood) presence as the intern with a devastating secret provides a strong moral ground for evaluation and reevaluation of the characters' actions and/or inaction.
THE IDES OF MARCH boasts strong performances from its seasoned leads, maybe not enough for any Oscar trophy, yet Clooney's direction should at least secure a nomination. Then again, awards are just another form of politics, and we do not necessarily need them as barometer for what makes a film great.