Monday, October 10, 2011

The Ides of March Review

I’ve never really been too interested in overtly political films, but something about the new Clooney/Gosling movie, The Ides of March, made me think it would be a quality film.  After now having seen the film I believe my original take was right.

The film shows a fictional race between the major Democratic contenders as they enter the Ohio Primary.  The film centers on Gosling, who is a top assistant to the Morris, played by Clooney, campaign.  Gosling’s character works for a legendary campaign manager, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who does a tremendous job, which isn’t anything new for him, as he always seems to nail his role.  The dynamic between these two characters is pretty great, their conversations, their philosophies and goes to show how a long-standing relationship can be destroyed by one action alone.

The movie tries to make some points along the lines of loyalties, allegiances, beliefs and the costs of winning, to which I feel they succeed on most accounts.

The primary purpose of the film, for me anyways, is to show the secretive world that exists behind political campaigns.  For every baby held and hand shaken, there are backroom deals, cover-ups and many situations that you, the voter, are never meant to see.  This is the job of a campaign manager, to make their candidate look good, even when they’re swimming in a pond of scum.  Moralities get twisted the further you travel along the campaign trail.  There’s a lot of give and take going on, where sometimes you must sacrifice a conviction or two, all in order to snag a few more votes, or to ensure a prominent person endorses your candidacy.

The film does a great job in this respect.  It shows this hidden world and is really eye opening.  It’s eye opening because, although a work of fiction, every bit of it appears extremely plausible, and sadly enough likely to occur behind the scenes.  I guess the question then comes out, with all the nitpicking done in the media, with all the vetting that goes on in the public eye, where do values stack up in the minds of the voter?  Are scandals more of a reason not to vote for someone or a reason out?  Do rock-solid values and seemingly perfect plans to help the country in remarkable ways, become degraded when a kink in a candidate’s personal armor becomes public information?  Unfortunately I think it does, for two reasons. 

First I believe the voters want to feel, in someway or another, that the candidate is somewhat like them, and when you feel a connection to a candidate you get a particular affinity towards that person.  But when something appears in regards to that person’s character or personality, that directly or even indirectly, is opposite to our own, I believe the voter then feels a disconnect.  Once the disconnect is felt then you begin to question everything, and all the candidate’s positives become undermined by each particular blight. 

Next, when a man or woman is campaigning upon a particular platform, each element of that platform is integral to the entire portrait the public is meant to see.  When, say the candidate is built up as a Family Man or a War Hero, what happens when the Family Man is found to have committed inappropriate relations, or where details are leaked about the War Hero, who at one point in his or her youth, had innocently signed up for some anti-war propaganda?  Do this things matter?  Well, even if they shouldn’t, of course they do.  When a flaw, especially ones that counter their primary portrait, appears, we begin to question everything that person has stated, every single thing, and quite often we come to the conclusion that if he lied to us once, he probably did many other times before.  And many will conclude the potential for dishonesty is too much a risk, and therefor we choose not to place our trust in that candidate, and vote for another, or refrain from voting altogether.

The Ides Of March does a great job of leaving the audience in a state that promotes deep thought.  We begin to wonder about so much that we value, so many of the things that may be lurking behind what we are able to see.  It does a great job in this manner and really paints a world many of us are not very familiar with.

Overall the acting is quality, the story is tight and I just love the fact that there is so, so much grey area, which really promotes audience participation, mentally, well after the story has concluded. 

If you want a feel good movie, this probably isn’t the film to see.  It has so many underhanded, even immoral, deals and behavior that it may cause some unrest and confliction in your assessment or at least the way you view things going forward.  You may not want to see this world, as it could taint the way you look at politicians and even politics in general.  I think it’s safe to say that feel good movies inspire your trust to some extent, not make you question the lines to which trust can be frayed yet still be considered, for the greater good.  Feel good movies don’t have systems of values so easily discarded in order to hopefully secure a win, race or election. 

Sure, values change all the time, but in feel good movies, it changes typically from the negative to the positive, not the other way around.  But if you’re in to this sort of thing, if you like films with enough grey areas that will make you think, you should enjoy The Ides of March

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