In the short time that I’ve been doing this movie blogging thing, I’ve come across the “Head vs Heart” conundrum several times already. Only usually, it’s the reverse of the situation I’m in now. See, typically it comes up when I’ve just watched some movie that I know most critics are going to call a piece of crap, and I recognize as a piece of crap, but I find myself coming up with excuses for why I enjoyed it.
Now, however, I just got back from a movie that… by all objective measures was excellent. It’s excellently acted, it has a very complex and engrossing plot, and Clooney did an excellent job calling the shots. The film looks great.
I just can’t get past the fact… I didn’t LIKE it that much.
I’m certain that most of that is intentional.
“Ides” tells the story of a fictional Junior Campaign Manager (Gosling) for a Presidential Candidate (Clooney). Along the way, he has to play down and dirty politics against and with the Senior Campaign Managers of both his candidate’s campaign (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and the opponent’s campaign (Paul Giamatti). When he comes across a proverbial “Skeleton in the closet” of the man he’s working for… he’s faced with some difficult choices and a tough position to manuever out of personally.
So, this isn’t supposed to be enjoyable, exactly. This is a look at the dark underbelly of big-ticket politics. The mechanisms of a political campaign that show just how much it’s not necessarily the person running and their ideals, qualifications, etc., but the greased palms, the backroom dealings, the media spins, the damage control and the backstabbing that goes on behind the scenes that is what truly places people into office. Thus you get a movie that’s cold, calculating and cynical. It’s a game of chess with real life implications on a grand scale.
Gosling, Clooney, Hoffman, and Giamatti all do an excellent job. These men are not big names actors for nothing folks. They strut their stuff here, too. In many, many, many movies this dialogue would be what I would call “overwritten” that is, I’d be watching and I’d be thinking, c’mon, no one is THAT quick, or no one is THAT smart. Not with these four guys. You believe they’re that fast on the draw, they really pull it off. They might all be upstaged by Evan Rachel Wood, though. She’s phenomenal as the young, attractive, impressionable intern on the campaign. She really is lights out… they give her character a wide emotional spectrum to cover, and she’s more than up to the task. And even though her role isn’t the big here, Tormei was great too. Excellent jobs across the board here, the acting was really the strength of this movie.
But… I’m really trying to personalize these reviews, here. There’s such a wave of reviewers out there that intellectualize the shit out of everything as if you were supposed to watch every movie like it was a film class assignment, you know? And that’s just not me.
And my biggest problem is, even though I certainly don’t want to turn this into a politics debate or anything, but my biggest problem is I have SUCH a distaste for politics right now, that the LAST thing on earth I need is a movie that focuses on how distasteful politics is. It’s not the movie’s fault, I know. But I had a real problem with it. I know that that’s the point of the film. It’s supposed to churn your guts over how awful the system is. But I have it up to my eyeballs already with that, this just felt like pouring salt on the wound. It’s just bad timing for it… I’m sure Clooney was furious over the whole debt ceiling debacle and the subsequent anti-political backlash, knowing that that was going to hurt his film, above and beyond any frustration he might have had as an American over it.
So. Usually I find myself saying “there’s no way I could call this ‘good’ but I liked it”, but this time I’m saying “there’s no way I could say this film was anything but excellent, but I didn’t enjoy it much”. I mean, my largest criticism of the film aside from the baggage I brought into it personally was that the film didn’t really NEED a scandal. The chess match and back room dealings were fascinating enough… if anything the whole “scandal” element brought the movie back down to earth.
So, anyways, if you have the stomach right now for a movie about dirty politics, God bless ya. This is a movie you’ll probably enjoy.