At first The Ides of March seems like one of those self-indulgent political movies in which a group of left-leaning screenwriters get together and live out their fantasies of beating the Republicans at their own game, saving the country in the process. It could have been that movie. It almost is that movie, with George Clooney playing the perfect, principled candidate who says all the right things. In fact, early on it is that movie. Most of the truly great moments in the first half of Ides come from simply watching Clooney be presidential. Even if you don't agree with what he's saying, you'll find yourself swept up in it, rooting for him, convinced that this is exactly the kind of guy our country has needed all along.
But then Ides of March becomes something else.
Actually, that's not entirely accurate. A statement like the one above implies that Ides of March changes its mind about the kind of movie it wants to be halfway through, and that's not true at all. What really happens is that it begins to reveal the kind of movie it's been all along.
The movie's actually about Stephen Myers, played by Ryan Gosling. Myers is second in command on Clooney's campaign staff, and only 30-years-old. Though he’s young for the job, Myers is there because he's good, and because as he puts it “he's already seen more of the campaign trail then most men twice his age.” He thinks that makes him just like all the other older, hard-bitten cynics playing the political game, but he isn't. At least not yet.
See Ides of March is actually about growing up. I'm not talking about the kind of growing up you do by simply getting older and greyer, or by having kids and putting up a picket fence, or even through experience. I'm talking about giving up.
That time comes for everyone and believe me, if you're reading this and swearing it won't, then it'll especially come for you. When you're young you think you can do anything. The world is yours, you can change it, you can fix it, you can remake it in your own image. At some point everyone, and I do mean everyone, has to accept that you can't change it, it isn't yours, and no matter how much you may think you’re above it, some day you'll have to take your place in it.
Ides of March is about a man accepting that change, a movie about the extreme circumstances which make him face it, and what he finally does when he realizes there's no way to escape it.
Though it’s a story told within the world of politics, March isn't really political at all. It's about something bigger and more deeply cynical. It's about the kind of damage that growing up can do to the human soul. To get there writer/director George Clooney has crafted a movie that's talky and intense, built on the bedrock of brilliant ensemble performances from his cast. There will be better movies released this year, but maybe none more sophisticated and shrewd.