Tuesday, 30 August 2011

TIFF '11 — THE IDES OF MARCH


"Nothing bad happens when you're doing the right thing."

The Ides of March is George Clooney's fourth outing as film director, resulting in his millionth (billionth?) trip to Toronto for the festival. It's programmed as a Gala title, and those in the know have it on their Must-See list. So — is it? Must we see the political intrigue drama that has everyone around excited?

In short: yes. Yes it is, and yes you should.

Based off the play Farragut North, the film is centred around Ryan Gosling's character, Stephen Meyers, who is one of the hotshot strategists for Democrat Presidential candidate, Mike Morris (George Clooney). 

Meyers, who believes firmly in the potential of Morris's leadership, looks at the political landscape with sharp wit, knowledge, and even a little bit of optimism. Thankfully for Morris, Meyers is great at his job, and leads the campaign to hopeful numbers in the polls. Things are going extremely well. 

 Unfortunately, however, Meyers seems to ignore the majority of the back-room tactics (blackmail, extortion, etc) that are routinely used in American politics. When he naively falls prey to a Republican's sabotage scheme, Meyers is placed in an incredibly difficult position — one made worse by Marisa Tomei's conniving NYT journalist, Ida Horowicz. 

It's here — under the table, behind closed doors — that the film really begins to power through the bullshit of the American political system. There are twists and turns that are, well...expected, but at the same time, astonishing. Clooney clearly hates the ravenous 24 hour news cycle, the demagoguery, the tricks, the ploys, the polls, the numbers...it's all so fake and so incredibly insular. 

There's a moment in the film where you realize that the politics exist in a bubble, and everything outside of it is unnecessary or irrelevant. As Meyers says, he's "married to the campaign." It's a very depressing thought to have, but one that is undoubtedly critical to the farce the real-life Presidential races have become. Meyers learns the true integrity of many of the people he works for and respects — yet the audience will likely judge his actions as harshly as he does. 

The film is impeccably made. The acting is top-notch from everyone involved, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Max Minghella, who I'm liking more and more since The Social Network. It's a great thing to take in a good performance, and this film has them in spades.

The only drawback I can really focus on is the script, which feels a little heavy. While biting, crisp, and ingenious at times, it's often very wordy, and I imagine the film will be difficult to follow for some. Oh well. There's a lot of dialogue — well-written, of course, but a lot.

Don't miss The Ides of March. It opens wide in October, so the priority of seeing it at TIFF is likely not as high as you think it should be, but it's a film that deserves to be watched. The film is especially relevant due to the 2012 Presidential race happening south of the border, but also due to the political climate that needs some restructuring. As it stands now, it's too easily manipulated by people who care about money and winning rather than philosophical ideals. At least, so sayeth Clooney.


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