George Clooney is a wonderful human being. Just try and argue that he makes many mistakes in his private life, his choice of roles or humanitarian work. Need a telethon organised? Call Georgie!
But the one thing about the man that is hard to get a handle on is his ability as a director. His rare forays behind the camera have been hit and miss to say the least. There’s no doubting the power and message of the award-winning Good Night and Good Luck but both Leatherheads and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind failed to leave any real impact on me or audiences at large.
And so enter The Ides of March. Clooney’s fourth feature about the trials and tribulations of a political campaign and the race toward the white house. The film sees him continuing the old Clint Eastwood trick of directing yourself in a supporting role, with him playing Governor Mike Morris, a governor seeking the DNC nomination for president. It’s a small role but seeing the contrast between his on-screen “great white hope for America” and the darker man who lurks behind the curtain is wonderful.
One of the main things you notice here is the strength of the cast in play here. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright all live up to their reputations – Hoffman in particular – but the man at the centre of the equation is undoubtedly Ryan Gosling’s ambitious young media strategist Stephen Myers. With a run of Blue Valentine, All Good Things, Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love, anyone who wasn’t paying attention to “the dude from The Notebook” twelve months ago certainly is now.
Gosling’s not really showing us anything he hasn’t before, but it’s the drive (pun intended) and belief in an ideal that he shows here that’s most interesting. But it’s when all that starts to crumble and things get dirty that the movie really heats up. This new level of melodrama tethers on the edge of believably but just about holds on to provide a dark ending to proceedings.
As the movie wraps up, it left me with the same kind of feeling I had at the end of The Social Network – hell can we come back next week to see how things wrap up?