Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”: Act 1, scene 2:
Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music cry “Caesar”.
Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the Ides of March.
Caesar: What man is that?
Brutus: a soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of march.
“Governor Mike Morris” is a far cry from the Emperor Julius Caesar but does share his unbridled ambition. Morris, fittingly portrayed by George Clooney who also wrote and directed “Ides of March”, is running for the prime spot on the Democratic ballot, hoping for a smooth journey to the White House. Hence the drama commences.
Anyone who has ever voted, watched a debate, attended a political rally will recognize the predictable, platitudinous prattle; depending on demographics or location, pushing the salient buttons, arousing the audience to radiant rapture and raucous rants of glee and affirmation. Clooney, never unaware of his stunning charismatic persona, captures the glibness, insouciant aura, impenetrable facade of the over- confident candidate perusing his anointed path to the “throne”. Comfortable characterization, lacking ingenuity; even the campaign speeches are repetitious renditions of generations of previous candidates; we are educated in the deceptiveness of most politicians.
The power and potency of the film lies in the performance of Ryan Gosling as “Stephen Meyers”, a true apostle of Morris; religiously devoted to helping him garnish the nod from his party ; he envisions him reigning in supreme glory and righteousness, presiding in the Presidential arena on Pennsylvania Avenue. Watching, as his illusions are raped, profound pain in realizing the corruption of absolute power; disillusionment that only an innocent, idealistic thirty-year-old can experience.
“Ides of March” succeeds in portraying master manipulators: conniving sycophants, ignoring morals and rules; there is no tool of deviousness they would not employ to accomplish their goals. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei imbue their characters with the perfect concoction of toxicity, tenaciousness and toughness needed in a world sorely lacking in accountability; a world where the end always justifies the means.
Evan Rachel Wood as “Molly” is accomplishing the transition from child star to adult performer with alacrity and grace.
Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March (15th); he should have paid heed to the soothsayer; Mike Morris is a better listener; remains to be seen if he is a better man.