The Ides of March (2011)
After Good Night, and Good Luck and now The Ides of March, two somewhat old-fashioned, politically oriented films, George Clooney is about to emulate the development of Robert Redford in the 1970s when he went from boyishly good-looking semi-bad-guy to serious, left-wing intellectual self-casting filmmaker. The Ides of March starts off as a modern version of Redford's The Candidate, with a thorough presentation of the mechanics of the primary election process in the United States, seen here from the viewpoint of the Democratic party. We follow the men behind the curtain as governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) tries to retain his lead in the primaries by beating Ted Pullman in Ohio. Some of the governor's more seasoned campaign advisors are in it for the game (Philip Seymour Hoffman), others still cling onto their idealism (Ryan Gosling), not quite willing to accept the fact that the politicians' big words and promises are just an illusion; that what it's really all about is power and money. I really liked the way the film shows how every pawn in a campaign like this must relate to and respect the other pieces' movement, but that everyone basically has the same goal: to advance as much as possible within his or her reach.
What I've described above is the film's first part - both chronologically and thematically. It turns out it has a second part - which is quite different. Stephen, the Gosling character, who is our protagonist (even though we're not quite sure whether he fully deserves our sympathy) gets involved with a sexy, determined intern (Evan Rachel Wood). She seems a bit too forward to be trusted, but the chemistry between them is steamy, so our Stephen takes his chances. The suspense builds, Clooney directs slickly with hints of classic noirish sensibilities. But then the plot suddenly turns into cheap and cliched melodrama through a somewhat too familiar twist which seems out of place in the film's otherwise modern manner of taking all considerations into account. As it turns out, Evan Rachel Wood's character is little more than a plot device, and a badly motivated one at that. Yes, it's all neat and tidy, and yes, The Ides of March does have tension and remains interesting in a crude sort of way, but the clever freshness from the first half of the film slowly evaporates, and what may have seemed like a possible Oscar candidate turns into a 1990-ish genre movie. Kudos for some fine acting, particularly from Paul Giamatti who is the only one who remains unaffected by the aforementioned melodrama.