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Vol. LXV, No. 40
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

NOW HERE’S WHAT WE NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR: Mike Morris (George Clooney, left) confers with his press secretary Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling, far right) and political advisor Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to discuss strategy for the upcoming candidates debate.

The Ides of March:Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows in Presidential Race

Kam Williams

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) joined Mike Morris’s (George Clooney) presidential campaign out of a heartfelt conviction that the Pennsylvania governor was “the only one who’s going to make a difference in people’s lives.” The press secretary’s enthusiasm was apparent even to casual observers like the New York Times reporter (Marisa Tomei) who observed that “You really have drunk the Kool-Aid.”

In contrast, Stephen’s boss, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is a cynical veteran who has seen plenty of campaigns. So, he’s decided to keep a close eye on his protégé because governor Morris is on the brink of securing the Democratic nomination for president. All Morris needs to do is keep his image clean until the upcoming Ohio primary because the polls indicate that he will collect all the votes of the Buckeye State’s 160+ convention delegates.

However, Zara knows that the campaign of their competitor, Arkansas Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell), is being run by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), a Machiavellian manipulator who is desperate to win at any cost. Duffy is not above stooping to dirty tricks such as dangling a plum cabinet position in front of a powerful politician (Jeffrey Wright) in return for a coveted endorsement.

When the candidates arrive in Cincinnati on the eve of their final debate, Stephen has no idea that his judgment and loyalty will be severely tested. He finds himself having to negotiate pitfalls such as being tempted by a flirtatious intern (Evan Rachel Wood) and being invited for a drink at a sports bar by a rival who has a hidden agenda. The trouble is that if he fails the tests, it would not merely reflect upon Stephen, but it could have serious repercussions for the entire campaign.

This is the compelling premise of The Ides of March, a multi-layered thriller containing a number of cleverly-concealed twists that highlight the sort of back-stabbing machinations that unfold behind the scenes of a hotly-contested political campaign. The movie co-stars, and was produced and directed by George Clooney. It was adapted for the screen from Farragut North, a play loosely based on Howard Dean’s ill-fated bid for the presidency.

Clooney assembled a talented cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood, They executed Clooney’s vision magnificently without once hitting a false note. Gosling’s performance is particularly noteworthy because he combines cockiness and naïveté.

Excellent (****). Rated R for pervasive profanity. Running time: 101 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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