Despite a stellar cast, “The Ides of March” falls flat

Image provided by Sony Pictures.

“The Ides of March” follows brilliant young press secretary Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) through the chaos of the Ohio primary elections. Meyers starts out a true idealist; he firmly believes his candidate, Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) is going to change America for the better. Yet, as Meyers soon learns, honesty never pays in politics, and this revelation shatters Meyers’ lofty expectations of himself and his candidate.

Though the plot is far from original, the excellent acting by Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as Clooney’s campaign manager Paul Zara, and Paul Giamatti, as Tom Duffy, the opposition candidate’s campaign manager help keep this movie interesting. The opening and closing shots of the movie, both close-ups of Gosling’s face, wordlessly convey his experience. Once idealistic and hopeful, he is now just a cynical as the rest of the people he works with. Bringing the same intensity and emotional depth he brought to the movie Blue Valentine, for which he received an Oscar nomination, Gosling is riveting to watch as he loses his faith in everything he once revered.

Giamatti, as the calculating manager for the opposition’s campaign, is enthralling as he plots to get his candidate into office, playing off his rivals’ weaknesses to achieve his goals. Throughout the film, he is a quiet, menacing figure, looming in the background and engineering Gosling’s downfall and his own success.

Hoffman, his rival, seems to be Giamatti’s polar opposite; hardworking, honest, and fair. Yet, as the movie progresses, Hoffman begins to show his true colors, exposing his dangerous, vindictive nature.

As the story unfolds, it skirts dangerously cliched territory as Gosling’s relationship with an intern named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) on the campaign begins causing problems, though betrayal by some of his closest friends sends Gosling into a tailspin that is gripping to watch. His deep rage and hurt over this disloyalty push his to his limit, and Gosling’s need for revenge builds the movie up to its climax.

The cinematography adds to the intensity and despair that saturate the movie. Shots of gritty alleys, cluttered offices, shabby hotel rooms, and dark bars help set the scene for the corruption and deceit that take place there. The dark tone of the opening shots, set on an empty stage before a debate, set the mood for the whole film, which ends in a similarly somber way. Recurring close-up shots of the characters create a mounting sense of urgency, and help the characters convey their emotions without a single word.

Rated R for language and sex, “The Ides of March” is not a movie for anyone younger than 14 or 15. Younger audiences will be unable to understand the mature themes of this movie, which is geared towards older teens and adults.

Boasting a stellar cast and some truly gripping scenes, “The Ides of March” is a fairly entertaining film. But those seeking a fresh, original take on the intensity of political campaigns shouldn’t waste their time.