19 October 2011

LoFiFest 2011 Part II

At some of the premieres and gala screenings at the London Film Festival, once you've crossed the red carpet and made it to your seat, they show you live footage of the red carpet and interviews with some of the cast and crew while you wait. As we were watching George Clooney schmoozing hacks and fans at the premiere of The Ides of March this evening, the woman sitting near me said, "Come on, George, stop flirting and get in here. It's not all about you, you know." This turned out to be fairly accurate: he may have directed the movie, co-written the screenplay and even played one of the main characters, but The Ides of March really isn't all about George Caesar — I mean Clooney.

When asked on the red carpet by Edith Bowman to describe his character, Mike Morris, Clooney said: "Well, he's a governor who looks a lot like me. And he wants to be president." It is primary season and in the polls, Morris is comfortably ahead of his rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Senator Pullman. His senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and junior campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) are quietly confident but not enough to tell cynical New York Times hack Ida (Marisa Tomei) that they have it in the bag. Meanwhile, Pullman's campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) spots Meyers' potential and attempts to seduce him onto the Pullman campaign, setting into motion a complex and ultimately tragic course of events, with pretty, young intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who gets involved with Meyers, as collateral.

Too far away... George in the middle

After watching Alan Cumming's Eli Gold in The Good Wife, it's hard for these guys live up to my expectations of campaign managers but Hoffman and Meyers, who have an interesting relationship and great banter, carry the film, which, after the first act, is largely devoid of Clooney. Meyers likes working for Hoffman because they're friends and he likes working on the Morris campaign because he believes in Morris and likes what he stands for. He'll never compromise on that, he tells Duffy. He can represent any cause as long as he believes in it. So we all know that Meyers is going to have to do exactly that: compromise on his ideals to achieve ambition, at the expense of his integrity. "I'm not sure I want to tie myself to you for the next eight years," Morris tells him at one point. "Four years," Meyers corrects, "don't get ahead of yourself." This is exchange is a sign of just one of the many changes in power between the characters during the course of the film.

Guess the stars: Sandra Hebron, George Clooney, Beau Willimon, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman

I have, as ever, tried to avoid reading reviews of the film before writing this post but the impression I get is that people think The Ides of March is a good film but it could have been a great one. I imagine some will complain that it is too stagey (it is based on the Beau Willimon play Farragut North) but I disagree. It is a tightly edited, well-acted political drama about power, trust, ambition and betrayal. Ryan Gosling goes some way to proving he can carry a film, although he has strong support from Hoffman, whose Zara is very savvy and very good at his job but knows that eventually, he'll leave politics and walk into a cushy consultancy job. It is very much a boys' film — the two main female characters, Ida and Molly, are fairly two-dimensional: cynical journalist, ambitious-but-naive intern. And Clooney, of course, charms as Morris, saying the right things, appealing to the right people, and yet still doing the very human thing of messing up royally.

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