A Quickie With Lisa Marie: The Ides of March (dir. by George Clooney)

George Clooney’s new political film The Ides of March opened last Friday and so far it appears to have mostly gotten positive reviews that are more respectful than enthusiastic.  Well, I saw The Ides of March on Tuesday evening and all I can say is “Don’t believe everything you hear.”  That should be a given but it’s always worth repeating.  The Ides of March is a slow, ponderous, and at times completely annoying movie, a minor work dealing with major themes.

The film is based on the play Farragut North and it’s about Stephen (Ryan Gosling), a political consultant who is working on the presidential campaign of Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney).  Morris is a typical Hollywood Democratic politician in that he gives a lot of speeches attacking America’s dependence on foreign oil and he’s not ashamed to admit that he’s an atheist.  Anyway, despite the fact that Morris comes across as being smug and something of a sexist, he’s the front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination but only if he can win the Ohio primary.  For all of his attempts to be as cynical as his mentor (Philip Seymour Hoffman, giving a typical Philip Seymour Hoffman performance), Stephen truly believes in Mike Morris.  However, Stephen comes across some information that could potentially destroy Morris’ campaign and he soon finds himself a pawn in a game between Morris, the press (represented by Marisa Tomei, who looks terrible in this film), and the opposing campaign (managed by Paul Giamatti).

Yes, The Ides of March has a lot to say but it’s absolutely nothing you haven’t heard before and, quite frankly, it’s kind of annoying how the film seems to think that this is the first time that anyone’s ever suggested that maybe politics is a dirty business.  The film’s not a total waste because there’s way too many talented people involved here for the film not to have the occasional good moment.  Gosling and Clooney both give strong performances and play off each other well.  They have a scene where they confront each other in a deserted kitchen and for a few brief seconds, the film actually gets interesting.  Playing an emotionally unstable intern, Evan Rachel Wood shows once again that she’s one of the best actresses working today and it’s just a shame that the film treats her more like a plot device than an actual human being.  At the same time, I have to say that this is the first time I’ve ever seen Paul Giamatti actually give a performance that can only be called bad.  Seriously, how could the same actor who was so brilliant in Win Win be so terrible in this movie?

Ultimately though, the film fails because — once you get past all the glamour on-screen — what you have is a very predictable political film that, especially in these days of Tea Parties and Occupy Movements, feels rather quaint and forced.  This is yet another one of those films where, apparently, the only way that the main character can learn a lesson is for a supporting character to commit suicide.  There’s a lot of would-be cynical dialogue and Clooney manages to include references to Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report but ultimately, the whole film feels as false as the romantic short stories I used to write in the 8th grade.

The film’s name is obviously meant to carry hints of Shakespeare but perhaps a more honest title would have been Much Ado About Nothing.

26 responses to “A Quickie With Lisa Marie: The Ides of March (dir. by George Clooney)

  1. I just slapped a review of this up the other day, as well. I wasn’t much more enthusiastic about it than you were. One thing you’ve got wrong about the modern political scene, though — it’s not “typical” for most, or even any, Democratic politicians to come out and say they’re atheists. Most of them frankly aren’t, and the ones that are don’t have the balls to say so directly. I happen to think we could use a few less holy rollers in office — look at the mess the “God-fearing” folks have gotten us into, after all. But yeah, this was a pretty bog-standard political “thriller” that doesn’t have nearly as much to say as Clooney thinks it does. It also strikes me as being a bit gutless — can you imagine the shitstorm of petulant whining it would kick up among the Limbaugh and Beck crowd is Clooney had made his slimeball politicians in this Republicans like he probably wanted to? But no, even people whose political leanings are well-known have to appear to be “bipartisan” these days. One thing — and I have to stress that it’s only one thing — I give Republicans credit for is that they don’t give a good goddamn about trashing the other side endlessly and sticking to their own beliefs even in the face of tremendous evidence that said beliefs don’t work or are just plain stupid. If tax uts for the rich dorive us deeper into debt and fail to produce any economic growth, they’ll just double down and try to get even more tax cuts for the rich. It may not be smart in fact it’s looking downright suicidal at this point, but that sort of loyalty is admirable. Hollywood Dems like Clooney will sell out their own side just to prove what equal opportunity cynics they are.


    • And I suppose you also buy into that “Evolution” stuff. Wake up, man. Even they call it a “theory”. Liberals. (sneer) Why, oh why did Sarah bail out on us, just when we need her and her wisdom to protect us from the death panels? Sigh…Let’s hope Brother Mitt can show us the way (better a cult member than a Godless Democrat).


  2. And they say the art of satire is dead. You almost had me going there for a second, the scary thing is you can read posts on websites like Fox Nation that sound more or less exactly the same only they absolutely mean every word of it!


    • Yeah, we got an Occupy thing going on down here as well. They’re all camped out in a park that I used to enjoy going to on my lunch hour because it was one of the few places I could go and relax for an hour without having to deal with some stranger approaching me, staring at my breasts, and hitting on me. Notice the use of past tense.


  3. Okay, I have to ask in all seriousness — where’s all this Vermont hate coming from? I lived out there for a couple years and while I’m a loyal midwesterner to the core, I have to say Vermont is the most beautiful state in the Union by a wide margin, only Maine comes even remotely close. I guess people have ths stereotypical image of Vermonters as granola-eating Dead-heads, but honestly there aren’t that many of people like that out there, and as much as I actively despise bands like the Grateful Dead, I’ll take a Dead-head over, say, a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, or whatever crap they listen to down south, any day of the week!


  4. (Apprehensive cringe) For the record, it wasn’t me that said that. He’s a good guy. He means well. So no need to get mad. But if you do, remember – he said it. It was HIM. (Please don’t hurt me…)


    • Lol, I would never get mad at anyone who is capable of appreciating a good grindhouse film.

      As for Vermont … oh my God, where to begin? 🙂

      Okay. the year is 2005 and your loyal narrator is in her second semester of college. She takes a political science course that’s tought by a handsome, long-haired professor who thinks that he can change the world and who actually is charismatic enough to make me believe that maybe I could change the world too. As the semester goes on, I spend every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon listening to this man talk about how he spent the previous year volunteering for the Howard Dean presidential campaign. This professor is in love with Dean and more importantly, he’s in love with Vermont. “Vermont this, Vermont that.” Eventually, it became apparent that this professor — while undeniably long-haired and hot — was also kind of a pompous, arrogant asshole who just tended to go on and on and on and on and on. Anyway, eventually, the professor’s love of Vermont became something of a running joke and the way that me and my friends dealt with our frustration was through two words that we would secrelty whisper to each other during class. Those two words: “Fuck Vermont.”

      Jump forward five years. I am writing a post on this site. I happen to mention that nobody would have paid money to see “The Vermont Chainsaw Massacre,” because Vermont doesn’t have a scary enough image. I just happened to end the paragraph with those two words that brought me amusement and comfort in the past: “Fuck Vermont.” I kinda figured that it would be obvious that I wasn’t being totally serious, just from the context of how I used it.

      Three months later, I log onto the site and what do I find but a comment from someone named Fern. Fern lives in Vermont and wow, is she ticked off. Lol. I mean, it was like she was saying, “We’re just as capable of being redneck chainsaw-wielding cannibals!” So, as a result, I’ve always taken the time to say “Fuck Vermont,” whenever possible — just because I want to hear from Fern again.


  5. Ah — it’s all a complex inside joke, I see. Well, maybe this Fern lady will turn up again, now that you’ve sounded her dog whistle. And yes, elitist academic liberal do-gooders who are bound and determined to save us all are annoying. I just find them less annoying than WWE-watching, Andrew-Dice-Clay-and-Larry-the-Cable-Guy-watching, Rick-Perry-supporting, call-themselves-Christians-but-drink-cheap-beer-and slap-their-old-ladies-around, Molly-Hatchet-listenin’ rednecks. But there’s no doubt each region of this country breeds its own special type of annoying asshole.Maybe one of these days I’ll actually get you mad at me though, the abject terror in KO’s voice makes me think it might be worth the effort!


    • Yeah, sorry to throw you under the bus there, trashfilmguru. But if it came down to it, better you than me. If ever there were a pen mightier than the sword, it is hers. Be afraid. Be very afraid…

      I like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet (and the Outlaws and Blackfoot, for that matter). I think what I’ve heard from Larry The Cable Guy was pretty funny. I like a lot of things about southern culture. Yet I have no religious convictions (I like to identify myself as a Rational Empiricist, because it makes me sound smarter than I actually am.)

      I don’t think one can really identify the mentality or biases of someone else based on the art and entertainment they enjoy, or where they live. I also like to watch films that depict people being terrorized and horribly killed by monstrous creatures or (sometimes) depraved humans. I’m not sure what that says about me… But I find the prospect of a President Perry even more frightening than the films I love. But not because of geographical affiliation. A President Santorum (PA), Bachmann (MN), Romney (MA) or (most ridiculously) Palin (AK) are also scary prospects. These folks seem to have acquired their mythological affinities and childish intolerant perceptions north of the Mason-Dixon line. So it may be more pragmatic to make our determinations based on the actions and words of each individual, as opposed to assuming or imposing an ideology based on region.

      Just some thoughts. What do I know? But I share your concerns. Something needs to chane, but simplistic extremism we’re seeing and hearing (on both sides) will not help.

      I’d pray for our future, but, you know…


  6. I hear you, praying would be a productive use of time if anybody were listening. I’m an agnostic about religion myself. I figure there’s probably some creative force that made everything, but we’ll never fully understand it and trying to define and codify it rather defeats the whole purpose. And I guess the only thing I like about southern culture is barbecue. I think the reality of life down south is in stark conflict with both the romanticized notion people have of it as well as the full-time-ugliness-and-idiocy some people view it as. I think it has its good and bad points like any other region — you can keep your Skynyrd, for instance, and the singer for Molly Hatchet sounds constipated. But I’m sure there are a hundred good things about it that just don’t spring to mind right now. No place is perfect, and no place is a full-time nightmare apart from maybe life in Baghdad or Kingston or Port Moresby or —well, okay, the list of places that would completely suck to live is endless.


    • Lol, I’m from the South (specifically the Southwest) which is probably why KO’s been waving his arms in warning for the past few comments. 🙂

      Anyway, yes, I’m a Southern girl and I’m a country girl and I’m not ashamed to admit it. However, I’m also an Irish-German-Spanish-Italian girl who speaks French and who loves grindhouse movies, Lifetime programming, baroque art, cats. and the color green. I love the Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk and have little use for country music. I rarely drink but whenever I do, I always seem to end up singing in my off-key way. I don’t linedance but I love ballet and I love Irish folk dance. I like to flirt, have fun, write poetry, and I’ve been told I drive too fast. I hate my nose, I usually try to hide the freckles on my shoulders, but I do like my eyes, legs, and hair. I’m an Irish girl with redhair, which means that I don’t so much tan as I just burn. I used to dress in all black and I would write emo literature under the pen name Pandora DeSaad. I also love to talk about myself. I would never demand that anyone “love” the stereotypes associated with Southern culture but I will always demand to be judged on the basis of who I am as opposed to where I was born.

      Unfortunately, that’s a consideration that few people are willing to extend. Where I’m from, we unfairly judge people from up north and up north, people ask me questions like, “Do you ride horses?” and “You know you’ve got an accent, right?” And whenever I hear that, it just makes me want to go, “Fuck Vermont.”

      BUT, on another note — did you know that there’s this town in Tennessee that used to have a statue of the Flying Spaghetti Monster out in front of it’s courthouse? It’s true! In July, me and Jeff stopped off in Crossville, Tennessee to see the FSM statue but sadly, it had been removed. 😦


  7. Well, that was certainly a thoughtful and introspective response. (And it was nice of you to take it easy on him.)

    May I offer one of the pieces of Southern culture (in addition to Ms. Bowman) that I really love? I realize that the other participants in this post are likely (some definitely) younger than I, so this may not resonate with you as it does with me. But I hope you can feel the energy and spirit of this song. To me, it epitomizes what Southern Rock was all about, and illustrates why old-school rock in general was just plain better. Even if you don’t like Skynyrd/Hatchet, etc., I’ll be surprised if this tune doesn’t do at least a little something for you.

    Anyway, the South brought us this gem from The Guitar Army. Hell, yeah! So that alone is enough for me to say, “Thank God for the South” (just in case anyone is listening). 🙂


  8. I’m familiar with The Outlaws and know this song, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t do much for me. But then, I have rather unusual taste in music and generally like a lot of the same bans that the guy on this page, necromoonyeti, writes reviews about. Anyway, yes, it would be nice if people were judged as individuals across the board, no question about that, rather than grouped into stereotypes based on where they’re from, their race, background, religion (or lack thereof), etc. I think we can all agree on that.


    • Fair enough. Then that’s 10 minutes of your life you wish you could have back, assuming you went ahead and listened anyway. I won’t waste everyone’s time with commentary about bands with vocalists (as opposed to singers) who sound like they’ve been gargling with razor blades – I’m sure the aesthetic perception disparity is related to the aforementioned age differential, among other things. I should have known better. Songs such as the one posted would probably be regarded as boring dinosaur rock. And I guess it was not a great idea to single out a personal favorite to represent and “defend” the South. There are so many other things, and it’s not necessary.

      On the plus side, an apparently lackluster political “thriller” stimulated an interesting conversation, got us to think about how we perceive other people, and enabled us to get to know, and hopefully understand, each other a little better. Amen to that. Or Hell, yeah!. Whatever works for you. 🙂


  9. I wouldn’t be too sure you and I are that far apart in age — I just hit 40 last month. I started getting into Black Metal music just through my interest in various other forms of underground music (grew up on Death In June, for instance, but somehow became a liberal rather than a Nazi, thank goodness), and found BM’s utter musical insanity to be quite captivatingly bizarre and the earnestness with which it approached its Satanic and, as the genre matured, heathen/pagan themes most refreshing. It’s no-bullshit, no-compromise music and that always wins my respect and admiration.And yes, “Ides of March” is indeed quite lackluster — if entirely competent — and while it cemented my opinion that Clooney is actually becoming a pretty solid actor’s director — Gosling’s performance carries this film and George himself radiates this sort of calm menace that really works — the “scandals” upon which it hinges just don’t surprise our jaded modern political sensibilities. In short, it’s nowhere near as shocking and interesting as Clooney wants it to be, but it’s a professional job of presenting thoroughly tired material. And I too am grateful we had a chance to use the film as a springboard to having an actually worthwhile conversation, thank you!


    • I liked all of the performances in Ides of March except for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s (not because Hoffman did a bad job, it’s just it felt like he was doing a typical Hoffman bit) and Paul Giamatti’s. As I said in my review, I usually love Giamatti in just about everything but in this film, it’s like he substituted baring his front teeth for acting. Still, I hope he gets an Oscar nomination for Win Win. But otherwise, I have to agree with you about Clooney as an actor’s director. Just consider how good Evan Rachel Wood was in a role that was so seriously underwritten.


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