There was a lot riding on the movie of the week this week. First it represented a critical tiebreaker in the 2011 Ryan Gosling competition. I loved Crazy Stupid Love and he was funny and charming in it, despite the presence of his nasaly, quasi-Brooklyn, Marlon-Brando-in-The-Godfather-despite-being-only-30-years-old-voice. Then came Drive, the critically-acclaimed, artistic piece of sh*t. It had a great opening sequence and then was as if someone took the movie Faster starring The Rock, reduced the muscles, kept the minimal dialogue and plot and added a European director with a love of himself. So The Ides of March would be the final vote in a split decision loss or victory for Ryan Gosling’s 2011.
No less important was the movie for George Clooney. For me George Clooney, as I have said many times before, is the high school quarterback that does math club and a capella. Girls love him, guys can’t hate him because he is good at football, but the losers really love him because he is the rare cool kid who uses some of his cool capital to do activities with them, rather than bully them. Hollywood is largely the math club and a capella group. They love that Clooney has not squandered his Ocean’s 11 mass appeal on starring in only big blockbusters, but he has passion projects and intellectual works and other giant bags of over-indulgent boring films. Loved Clooney in Out of Sight, loved him in Oceans 11 and really enjoyed, more recently, Up In The Air. These were football films for Clooney. Sleek, cool and fun to watch (and Up In The Air had a dose of math club in it too). But in between those movies were a heavy load of self-important crap.
Good Night and Good Luck – overrated and boring, but the fact that the cool kid was doing them required the geeks to support it, or risk losing Clooney to football entirely.
Syriana – not bad, never should have won an Oscar (he grew a beard – what is this a comedy festival or the Oscars) and the film was adequate.
And then there was Michael Clayton, his biggest critical success, which was the most average of corporate thrillers (it cannot hold the jock of Michael Mann’s The Insider, for example, but garnered the equivalent nominations and praise 11 years apart).
And this is without mentioning one of the worst film’s of 2010 The American which was all Clooney all the time and terrible, but somehow escaped with mediocre reviews instead of Bucky Larson reviews.
Together Clooney and Gosling seemed very poised to enter the “J-L Debonair Overrated Hall of Fame” joining current inductees Colin Firth and the television show Mad Men.
So Gosling Brando and Clooney Christ had a lot to deliver with The Ides of March. And in my opinion, they did.
This movie is a brisk and tight 100 minute experience (its sharpness is probably due to the fact that it is based on a play, Farragut North). Unlike Moneyball, for example, I could not complain of any fat needing to be trimmed. The cast is strong, with the four main characters played by Gosling, Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. Jeffrey Wright, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood handle the remainder and between those seven actors you have some serious chops carrying the film.
It follows an Obama-esque candidate (Clooney – all white, not half-white) on the campaign trail, specifically their fight to win the critical Ohio delegates for the Democratic nomination. Gosling is the whiz kid, who probably has an Ivy League pedigree, based on his position and yet still sounds like a mush-mouthed Brooklynite. Don Corleone-ing aside, Gosling is quite strong as the character that undergoes the most development throughout the film, from idealistic whiz kid to hardened, cynical political operative. The whole cast is great and I could not ask for much more from a movie. It is lean, well cast, well acted with a story and themes that are very current.
Final Grade – A