Students of the Game


Even critics who admired The Ides of March for its fast moving melodramatics and juicy acting complained about a denouement awash in cynicism. But a bleak view of politics is not the same thing as a cynical wallow, not if the view is sufficiently grounded in a believable and gripping dramatic action. Though its plot contains a few loose ends, The Ides of March drives home a solid point, and it’s not the usual nihilistic one (à la The Best Man and Bob Roberts) about campaigning being a game at which only the corrupt can win. The point here is more complex and, perhaps, more disturbing: when politics becomes a job instead of a calling, a vocation, we all lose.

The Ides of March is an adaptation of a play by Beau Willimon, Farragut North (the name of a D.C. subway stop that leads to K Street, the dwelling place of evil lobbyists). The movie focuses not on the presidential candidate Governor Mike Morris, played to sleek perfection by George Clooney (who was also director and coauthor of the screenplay), but on his press spokesman, Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling, whose hooded, pretty-boy charm is better employed here than in Drive, where he plays a macho superman). Myers comes on at first as the ideal liberal henchman for an ideal liberal Democrat espousing all the correct lefty positions on abortion, the environment, gay marriage, etc. In fact, the spokesman apparently would like his candidate to move even...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.