Film Review – Ides of March

17 Nov

– by Walton Pantland

This is a finely scripted political thriller in which an idealistic campaigner loses his innocence.

Ryan Gosling – easily one of the most interesting actors working in Hollywood today – plays Stephen Myers, an adviser working on the political campaign of Democratic leadership candidate Mike Morris, played by George Clooney, who also directs. The tighly contested Ohio primary is under way, and Myers is working hard to get his candidate elected. Reflecting the optimism of the Obama campaign, Myers is a true believer – he believes Morris will make America a better country, and that fundamental change can come about by electing the correct candidate.

A romance with a beautiful intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) has tragic consequences, and Myers is forced to confront the sleaze and corruption of the political system, and his own faith in the candidate he reveres.

Can this be read as an allegory for the Obama presidency? For many activists in the US, the rhetoric about hope and change seems to have retreated into resignation and a cynicism that hope and change can’t come about through the established political order. The people now involved in the Occupy movement across the US are the same constituency that turned out en masse to elect Obama. The film speaks of the failure of centre left politics to articulate people’s aspirations and hope for a better future, and of the victory of cynicism in politics.

The film has an excellent cast – Marissa Tomei, an increasingly nuanced actor, is excellent as a crusading journalist, while Paul Giamattai and Philip Seymour Hoffman are utterly convincing as world-weary and cynical political advisors for rival candidates. The star is clearly Ryan Gosling, who’s wide-eyed innocence is crushed and compromised by the corruption, cover ups and back stabbing he encounters on the race to the top.

An intelligent political drama that speaks to the democratic deficit and widespread popular disillusionment with our political systems.


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