“Play with your intern and pay the price.” An old disclaimer dating back to the President Bill Clinton days but, nonetheless, a major message in the recent George Clooney dirty-politics potboiler, “The Ides of March.”
Co-writer/director Clooney portrays Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris, who appears to be the perfect liberal presidential candidate. “George Clooney”-handsome, Morris is Catholic, but pro-choice (“The United States Constitution is my religion,” he says), an environmentalist, for taxing the rich, and a model husband.
Well, there’s a problem with the last item. What’s supposed to be a big revelation is pretty predictable, the accent on “pretty,” because Molly, the intern (Evan Rachel Wood), is beguilingly so.
She is quick to seduce Morris’s hot-shot press secretary, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), who is the film’s central focus, as we follow his rite-of-political-passage. Meyers begins the movie by declaring, “I’ll do or say anything, as long as I believe in it.” After two and half hours of screen time, he believes in blackmailing his own boss to keep his job.
One character remains uncorrupted, Morris campaign manager Paul Zara (the ever solid Philip Seymour Hoffman). He is steadfastly loyal to his belief in “loyalty,” the all-important glue that holds political campaigns together.
As Zara, Hoffman gives “Ides” a ray of hope in the gloom and doom. Conversely, Paul Giamatti plays Tom Duffy, Zara’s cynical counterpart, working for Morris’s rival in the Democratic primary. Both actors almost make the movie worth watching.
In its dark depiction of politics, “The Ides of March” is a movie that doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, though it thinks it does.