George Clooney does quadruple duty as star and director, as well as producer and co-screenwriter in the political drama The Ides of March. The film also stars Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti,Marisa Tomei and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The film, which premiered in August at the Venice International Film Festival and later played at the Toronto International Film Festival, has been well-received by critics. It scored 81% fresh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. However, many major critics found themselves in the minority.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Deborah Young was not with the critical majority. She wrote, “Had writer/director George Clooney and his co-scripters Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon injectedThe Ides of March with the intimate political conviction that made Good Night, and Good Luck a critical standout and a frontrunner for liberal patrons, the exit polls would be more positive on this political thriller juggling idealism and corruption with fairly predictable results.”
The Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan wasn’t a fan, either. He wrote, “The dialogue is smart and focused, and as a director Clooney has encouraged his cast to really tear into it. It’s certainly involving to see the charismatic Gosling verbally spar with superb character actors like Hoffman and Giamatti. Still, even though all the supporting elements of a superior film are here, the actual plot that everything is at the service of is disappointing. The texture of reality and the sheen of fine craft disguise this for a while, but not forever.”
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert wrote, “The movie really reveals no new information. Now that campaign managers shuffle between cable news shows and write their own books, few secrets stay in smoke-filled rooms (and besides, hardly anyone smokes anymore). There isn’t the feeling, as there was with Primary Colors or Nixon, that we might be getting the inside story on actual candidates. The Ides of March is more about the nature of modern media politics, and younger players who are strangers to idealism. The movie’s strength is in the acting.”
A.O. Scott wrote in the New York Times, “Somehow, the film is missing both adrenaline and gravity, notwithstanding some frantic early moments and a late swerve toward tragedy. It makes its points carefully and unimpeachably but does not bring much in the way of insight or risk. Powerful men often treat women as sexual playthings. Reporters do not always get things right. Politicians sometimes lie. If any of that sounds like news to you, then you may well findThe Ides of March downright electrifying.”
Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers wrote, “I’ve heard complaints that crushed idealism is hardly new in political drama. Point taken. But take more than a cursory look at The Ides of March and you’ll realize that Clooney is hunting bigger game. He scratches the surface of each of his flawed characters to find out when they first put their souls on the market. What job doesn’t that relate to, especially now, in economic crisis?”