All The Governor’s Men

That magical time of the year is coming! The weather is growing colder. The days are getting shorter. I’m feeling an urge to read numerous subtitles and gain 5 lbs. from popcorn consumption alone. That’s right, Oscar season is fast approaching, and anyone who knows me will atest to the fact that I am just the worst during Oscar season. But for those of you who don’t know me in that charmingly intimate capacity, fear not! For I will be using this wonderful medium that is the blog to share my Oscar season thoughts, predictions, and annoyances with my loyal readership (i.e. Dad).

I kicked off my Oscar season coverage with an informative and pretentious little ditty on “The Help” . Next, I will be delving into George Clooney’s latest Oscar nip directorial endeavor “The Ides of March”.

Adapted from Beau Willimon’s critically acclaimed play “Farragut North”, “The Ides of March” examines Democratic Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), as he and his team campaign through the Democratic Primaries. The cast gives me the Oscar fuzzies; Oscar winners George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Marisa Tomei, star alongside Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Paul Giamatti. My hopes were high for this one and it didn’t totally disappoint. The acting was incredibly strong, most notably from Hoffman, Giamatti, and Gosling, and it had all the intrigue, scandal, and twists of a top-notch political thriller. However, for me, it was just lacking something that I just couldn’t put my finger on; like when I’m eating a hamburger that I haven’t put potato chips in and I think to myself, “hey, something’s missing here, but what?”

Without giving any of the plot away, I’ll just say that I found that the film lost a lot in adaptation. When I first heard that Willimon’s play was being turned in to a film, I felt like it was a promising idea. After all, the American political scene is a big, gritty, highly-public world. I felt like the film medium would do this cut-throat, ever-broadening realm more justice than the stage ever could. But left with so much extra space, Clooney filled the voids with tired, overused clichés of hubris. The moral was too simplified and Gosling’s subsequent departure from innocence to experience felt played out and obvious.

A perfect metaphor for what is lost in translation, (that’s right, let me get my English major on, for a second), comes from the decision to change the title. Originally titled “Farragut North”, Willimon’s play is named after a Washington Metro station red line. Willimon himself worked on Howard Dean’s doomed campaign and would take this subway line from home to Farragut Square, a hotspot for political big shots working on campaigns, think tanks, and political lobbying in Washington, DC. Clooney chose to scrap this title and go with “The Ides of March”, a dual-reference that cites both the full moon on the Roman calendar and also the date on which Julius Caesar was stabbed in the back, i.e. the most obvious reference for betrayal and ambition known to man. Nice one, Clooney. I’ll be debating the subtle complexities of that title for years to come.

For me, betrayal is hardly a major theme here and Clooney’s decision to use it ignores the more subtle and tricky themes of fluctuating morality and the desexualization of power.

Final Verdict: In the end, you make up your ticket price in shameless Gosling ass shots alone, (well worth the money, am I right ladies?). Despite its shortcomings, I believe it is still worth seeing. But when it comes to Oscar nominations, I think the golden king Oscar will look past this well-manicured, under-developed political thriller, with the exception of some possible Best Supporting nods for Hoffman and Giamatti.

What did you think of “The Ides of March”. Are you all “Gosling’s ass shots aren’t worth the ten bucks,” or are you thinking “woah, woah, woah, Seymour’s ass is the real money maker, here.” Let me know! Comment!

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