The blank stare of Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) at the end of The Ides of March does more than finalize his transformation from an idealistic mensch to a ruthless and unscrupulous campaign manager. It also tells us that the only remnant left of Meyers is strictly in the superficial: He has literally become a political animal. The Ides of March gives an uncompromising look into the dog-eat-dog world of American politics. The film examines how we compromise our values and our beliefs not just to gain the upper hand in the political machine but also to survive it.
Meyers’ idealism reminds you of a naive college graduate set out to change the world. Ida (Marisa Tomei), a journalist, even tries to correct his genuine positivity. Although Meyers has been in the business of managing campaigns for what seems to be most of his short adult life, he claims that he has never pushed for anyone like Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). The Governor is a happily married Democrat with all the right (i.e., left) democratic verve. He is pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-tax hikes for the wealthiest, pro-clean and green agenda, and pro-anti-war. The only problem is that he likes girls. Well, more specifically, the daughter of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Darwin’s theory of evolution simply yet cleverly presumes that the fittest animals are better able to survive and to pass on their genes (that is, have more sex). Humanity, on the other hand, must rise above nature because we are smarter and thus better than animals, right? On the contrary, we might actually be worse. Meyers says it best when he confronts the Governor: “You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can't fuck the interns.” The Governor breaks the only rule in politics. Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), the intern, must get an abortion because Governor Morris forgot the condom. This “mistake” causes a chain reaction that ultimately tests Meyers’ humanity, a test that he fails.
Clooney has become a fan of the political/thriller-esque genre with Syriana, Michael Clayton, The American, and now The Ides of March. It is rather admirable of him to take a role that tarnishes a Democrat’s name considering that he is such an outspoken Democrat himself. And Clooney delivers. Morris’ joyful, everyman’s face turns darker and darker as the film progresses. By the end, an evil air lingers about him that wasn’t there before. Although he may have gotten the nomination, he lost to Meyers who claimed to have knowledge that would ruin the Governor’s political career as well as his family. The only “compromise” made in the film was between Meyers and Morris, who by now are two very corrupt men.
In summary, a contender for the Oval Office must have a spotless private life, at least in today’s day and age. Of course, once one is in office, one can do whatever the hell one wants as exemplified by JFK and Clinton and surely, many others. It is doubtful that the Republican hopefuls for the 2012 elections, particularly Herman “the Godfather” Cain, had given this film a viewing. By now, we have all heard of the scandals that plagued Cain’s cartoonis “Uz-beki-beki-stan-stan” march to the White House. Name after disappointing name forced him to “suspend” his campaign.
Much to the dismay of people like Stephen Colbert, Herman Cain did not return to finish what he had started. Rumors are that he is concocting a new “10-10-10” plan for 2016. Watch out, whoever. Also, Newt’s ex-wives planted that seed of doubt in the mind of Americans that eventually bloomed into the tree of death after his scathing remarks of how poor blacks should use mops to learn the value of hard work. And who knows what secrets Mr. Romney is hiding?
But instead of muckraking illegal affairs, why not focus on the heart of the matter? Why not talk about the policies and issues that affect all Americans instead of focusing on how to tarnish other candidates? Why not talk about providing universal health care like other civilized nations do? Why not talk about how to strengthen education and research so we can wean ourselves from things like offshore drilling? Aren’t Americans tired of bickering over the he-said-she-said, childish and irrelevant noise? Maybe we are just not ready to grow up, to compromise.
The Ides of March
Director: George Clooney
Writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Starring: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Seymour Philip Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
My Grade: B+