I have avoided writing reviews for some time. And, when I became of The Ides Of March last year, on its' release, I avoided it too.
There was something about the notion of Hollywood liberal and UN Ambassador George Clooney and his actor pals doing a self congratulating movie about the death of American liberalism that just turned me off. But I read it wrong. This movie is far more nuanced, a fascinating a character study, and an analysis of the corruption of the human being inside the Machiavellian US political machine.
At the heart of it is not Clooney (who directs, but doesn't even really appear until several minutes in, and then only sporadically), playing Governor Mike Morris, a Presidential Candidate going through the rigours of a Democratic Primary election in Ohio. It's his campaign staff, namely heart-throb of the moment, Canadian Ryan Gosling as Steven Myers, his second in command, who the action centres on, and his development from idealistic political ingénue to cynical insider.
While the movie begins with Myers helping his boss Paul Zara, played with effortlessly and gracefully by Philip Seymour Hoffman, when the campaign hits a snag, he embarks on an affair with beautiful young intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), 10 years his senior, who precociously seduces him.
But it's when he gets an offer from the rival campaign manager Paul Giamatti, and discovers a secret about Morris's personal life, that things begin to unravel, and his deep emotional bond of loyalty to his boss is questioned.
I have to say, I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would, and it's partly because of the highly skilled, effortless performances, great direction, and a wonderful story. It changes direction unexpectedly, but it perfectly paced.
The sense of corrupt system in which only the manipulative can survive is perfectly communicated, and little touches like the supporting performance and sub plot with the Marissa Tomei's journalist character, underscore the sense of younger, innocent people being chewed up and spat out by older, more cynical souls. Or worse, becoming like them, and trading their innocence for advancement in the process.