Star rating – 8/10
Ryan Gosling is smoking hot right now – he lights up any and every film he is in and is a sure fire box office talisman. But when you are delving into the realms of dramatising American presidential politics, there is really only one winner, and that is not director and star of ‘The Ides of March’, George Clooney, it is Aaron Sorkin, writer of arguably (and I would) the smartest, most brilliant TV series ever, ‘The West Wing’.
That feels a bit unfair, as Clooney has given us a great film here, and lifts the lid (again) on the total lack of scruples of just about anyone involved in any way in a US presidential campaign. He plays presidential hopeful, Democrat candidate Mike Morris, as the primaries take place to decide on their candidate for the White House. And Clooney is very presidential; with his trademark style and smoothness he is a shoe in for the role.
But the real star of the film is Gosling, who plays a young ambitious but morally upright and loyal party aide, Stephen Meyers, who is glad to be working on the presidential campaign of a candidate he can truly believe in. The story is all about Meyers, and how he is manipulated into a compromising position, but how he in turn uses attractive young intern Molly, played by Evan Rachel Wood, when he cannot resist the temptation she brings. He ends up being just as bad as all the rest, as he fights dirty when backed into a corner. Gosling is wonderful to watch, playing tender, playful, intelligent, mean, and ruthless with equal conviction. Something biblical about gaining the world and losing your soul came to mind.
But the reason why I wasn’t blown away with the film overall, despite its stellar cast including Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman, is that I missed that whip smart dialogue and fast plotting that Sorkin brought to us with the West Wing’s Bartlett presidency, and which I still miss now. This just felt a little slow and laboured at times by comparison. Must dig out those box sets again soon...