The Ides of March (2011)
George Clooney is the Mark Jackson of directing. From 2011 to 2014, Mark Jackson was a fine coach for the Golden State Warriors. As NBA fans, we were certain that the team would make the playoffs. But we always knew that the team was never going to crack it. Those teams had talent (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, David Lee, Andre Iguodala), but the formula never produced championship success. The team had to shift. Steve Kerr joined, unlocked Steph Curry, and a half-decade dynasty followed.
The Ides of March had a lot of acting talent (Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Ehle, Max Minghella). But the movie just needed a shift. David Fincher unlocked Beau Willimon. The result was House of Cards. (Fincher had actually accomplished a similar feat before with Aaron Sorkin, leading to The Social Network). George Clooney just wasn’t the right guy.
The movie toiled in ending purgatory. It took about 20 minutes to figure itself out (see: the mandatory scene). And at every point afterwards, it always felt like the movie had 20 minutes to go. Just a series of endings strung together.
Unfortunately, the biggest misstep was its strength. George Clooney made for a perfect candidate. But then the story found itself in a dilemma. How does the golden son fall from grace? The answer was to be dumb. Exactly like Breaking Bad. Heisenberg was too smart to ever get caught, so the writers just made him suddenly dumb when he left a book in a bathroom. The same thing happens in The Ides of March. At the end of the movie, the Gosling character scolded the Clooney character for fucking the intern, saying, “You can lie, you can cheat, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t fuck the interns.” Except that’s exactly what the Gosling character did an hour before! (And why would the kid of a career politician fall into this trap?)
Nevertheless, I choose to reward ambition. The filmmakers could have chosen a generic title for the movie. Something like The Primary, or The Campaign Manager. Instead, they decided to swing for the fences with a reference to the killing of Julius Caesar. The movie attempted to center itself around the moral decay of the Gosling character. It stretched to be The Godfather Part II, with Gosling in the Michael Corleone role. In The Ides of March, we never really saw the part where the Gosling character was exceptional at his job. Meanwhile, we know how ruthless Michael Corleone is in The Godfather Part II, because of the character development that was set up in its predecessor. Where’s the scene in the first quarter of The Ides of March to signal how much political ass Gosling’s character kicked to earn his spot in George Clooney’s campaign? The movie aimed to be The Godfather Part II, but probably landed nearer Part III. Yeah, sure, the final product failed to land. But, c’mon, this series was awesome!