At the Movies: The Ides of March

I was all set to go see “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots: The Movie” when I learned there were going to be humans in it. And worse, they were sticking a father/son drama into my boxing robots movie. So I stayed home. I get enough of that kind of disappointment every week from “Terra Nova.” I’ll try to catch “Real Steel” in a couple of years when it shows up on FX every weekend.

Instead I went to see “The Ides of March,” which, to my wife’s disappointment, had nothing to do with Julius Caesar or Shakespeare.

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Well, it’s been a good fall for Ryan Gosling and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Gosling delivered an impressive performance three weeks ago in “Drive” while Hoffman did the same two weeks ago in “Moneyball.” Now both actors, along with George Clooney and Paul Giamatti, give outstanding performances in the political thriller “The Ides of March.”

Gosling stars as Stephen Myers, the idealistic and charismatic No. 2 man in the presidential campaign of Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney). Hoffman plays Paul Zara, Myers’ older, more cynical, more ruthless boss.

Both men are doing their best to get Gov. Morris the delegates he needs to secure the Democratic nomination in what has become a two-man race. Tom Duffy (Giamatti), an organizer as experienced and ruthless as Zara, is running the rival’s campaign.

The race is too close to call and Zara and Duffy are pulling out all the stops. Zara is at a bit of a disadvantage because Morris refuses to compromise on his principles and Zara is trying to lure wunderkind Myers to switch sides.

Things get more complicated when Morris and Myers get caught up in a potential sex scandal with Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), an intern working for the governor’s campaign.

Directed and co-written by Clooney, “The Ides of March” isn’t a particularly fresh story. The story of a young idealist who discovers that politics is a dirty, disgusting business is hardly a new tale. The plot is straightforward and fairly predictable, which is actually pretty refreshing for a thriller. These days Hollywood can’t make a movie like this without throwing in a dozen twists and turns that just needlessly complicate matters and usually don’t make sense.

What makes “The Ides of March” rise above the norm and the fantastic performances by Gosling, Clooney, Hoffman and Giamatti. The film is much more compelling as a character study than a political thriller. You may not like or approve of what these men do, but you understand why they do it.

Did it work for me? Thanks to its impressive ensemble cast, “The Ides of March” gets my vote.

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