Film Review: IDES OF MARCH

Directed by George Clooney
Written by Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon (based on his play Farragut North)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright

Wow! This has to be one of the most cynical movies about politics ever made. And for me, one of the best. If you have a shred of idealism left, you may find this film discouraging. And it was very clever to set this movie solely within the Democratic Party so as not to confuse the film with party differences.

PLOT. Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is press secretary for Pennsylvania Governor, Mike Morris (Clooney) who is making a bid for the Democratic nod for President. In the battleground state of Ohio, the situation looks good if the Morris machine can knock off their closest competitor, Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell), an Arkansas Senator whose campaign is run by Tom Duffy (Giamatti).

But this movie is more about the backroom wheeling and dealing than the upfront candidates for much of the film. And highly skilled acting from Philip Seynour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti as counterparts in the election do much to make us believe that politics is a pretty dirty place. Scenes that at first seem superfluous, eventually come full circle to be crucial to the plot.

Early on, Gosling makes a mistake that is likely to cost him his job. But before this can fully play out, he’s handed information that might save him from ruin. Although these men talk about honor and loyalty quite a bit, they seldom practice it. You’d like to think their liberal ideology comes first, but really it’s their access to power and their own career they value. And Marissa Tomei (strangely the only media present) reminds us of exactly the power the media wields today.

Determined not to be an actor known solely for his looks, Clooney gives us another film of substance. Highly recommended.
Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.