It is not a particularly shocking concept that politics in this country consists of corrupt individuals continually sacrificing principals in order to get ahead in the polls. It is also not an entirely original idea to focus on the people behind the scenes. Perhaps this is why even the most shocking revelations in “The Ides of March” feel a bit trite. Everything from the protagonist’s journey from idealism to cynicism to the compromising politics of both sides, seems like a path that is all too familiar to the audience.
The focus of the movie is on Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) who works as a consultant for presidential hopeful Mike Morris (George Clooney). Meyers is young but talented and genuinely believes that Morris is the best candidate for the job. The problem with the script is that it calls out its own downfall. In a scene in the beginning of the movie a reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) responds to Meyers’ idealistic support of his candidate by claiming that “it won’t matter. Not one bit. To the everyday lives of the everyday [people]… If your boy wins, you get a job in the white house, he loses you’re back at a consulting firm on K-Street. That’s it.” The movie holds true to this promise. Not only does Meyers end up at one of those two places, but it really just does not matter. Gosling does a noble job trying to make Meyers endearing to audiences, but it is not enough. In the end, Gosling’s character’s journey is inconsequential. Had he learned nothing in the process and maintained his idealism about Morris, he would be in the same place, except with fewer moral compromises tied to his name. The movie’s emphasis is on its characters and not its plot, but to be honest, Meyers’ tragic acceptance that all politicians are corrupt in some way does not feel at all tragic.
The movie does have its moments of brilliance, including a bar scene with Tomei’s Ida and the last scene with her, and the skilled actors make it a pleasant journey. Gosling’s stoic mannerisms are as captivating as ever and Clooney plays suave like he has done it a million times, which he has, but in the end, as with most presidential elections, there is a feeling that we are in pretty much the same place that we started.