The unseemly behavior that tends to run rampant in US politics would hardly surprise anyone, even when uncovered in a political thriller. And in the case of The Ides Of March, you might say there’s a Noah’s Ark configuration surrounding those animal instincts when on display, and counting combinations of dog eat dog, scapegoats and sacrificial lambs.
Multi-tasking in The Ides Of March both on and off screen is director and co-writer George Clooney, who likewise plays Governor Mike Morris, currently a Democratic contender in the Ohio presidential primary. Spouting lofty ideals and liberal sentiments, Morris is backed by a fanatically dedicated team ‘married to the campaign.’ And including seasoned campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his young zealot press liaison, Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling).
In a broad political skirmish more intricate and talky than it needs to be, a rival candidate makes an offer through his blustery campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) to quit the race and release his delegates to Morris, in exchange for a post in a prospective cabinet should the governor win the presidency. But with the two candidates at ideological odds, Morris declines the deal.
At the same time, flirty intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who also happens to be the daughter of the chairman of the DNC, aggressively hits on Myers, reveals she’s already pregnant after what is unclearly suggested as date rape by the married governor, and is in need of an abortion but her Catholicism forbids asking Dad for the necessary fee.
And in short order, loose cannon Myers arranges for the abortion, gets in over his head unsuccessfully trying to secretly negotiate Duffy’s unwelcome bid, gets fired, and pushes to get rehired by bribing the governor regarding his scandalous sexual indiscretion. All this as busybody NY Times reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) annoyingly stalks Myers, in order to scoop a couple of gotcha stories.
Now while you may excel better at keeping track of all these tangled plot threads than I, nobody should have to work this hard at deciphering the meandering contents of a movie. Though the fierce ensemble cast chemistry does compensate in large part, for a mostly all talk and little action thriller.
On a side note, Ides Of March refers to the assassination of Julius Caesar way back when. Though the reference here is one of character assassination instead. And the standout line in the movie, that a politician can start a war but better not have sex with an intern.
2 1/2 stars