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The Ides of March

May 11th                 George Clooney                Certificate 15     USA 2011

After a good 15 years or so of hearing it, George Clooney must be thoroughly fed up of the magazine-ready “next Cary Grant” description that’s been welded to his name. Yes, he has very neat hair, a sharp suit collection and a knack for brisk comedy, but he is very much his own man. Or, you know, the next Warren Beatty – as his proficient, serious-minded and slightly glib directorial output thus far suggests he might be thinking. Four films in, however, and that liberal impersonality (present even in his comedies), is starting to become an auteur brand in itself: The Ides Of March, a polished, compelling and rarely surprising political thriller modelled on the failed 2004 presidential campaign of Howard Dean, may be his Clooniest film yet.  


Which is odd, given that he’s not the star of it: that position falls to the currently ubiquitous Ryan Gosling, shirtsleeves-sexy but less connected than usual in a curious role that requires him to be both smooth operator and pure-of-heart naïf: as the loyal campaign manager ofClooney’s slick would-be president, a Democrat with the values of Obama and the libido ofClinton, he’s required to be both disillusioned and world-weary when he stumbles upon the startling truth that – you may want to sit down for this – not all politicians are truthful or virtuous. This is the kind of film where a Weary Seen-It-All Reporter (an underused Marisa Tomei, in this case) warns our wet-behind-the-ears protagonist that All Is Not As It Seems; no one comes right out and says, “Beware the Ides of March,” but you know they’re all thinking it.

 As you may have gathered, then, this isn’t quite as urgent or insightful a tale of our times (or even of 2004) as Clooney seems to hope it is, but it’s still a tight, attractive piece of grown-up Hollywood entertainment, well-served by a top-notch supporting cast – in particular, Evan Rachel Wood’s sour foxiness is put to great use as the office pawn in the Gosling-Clooney face-off. If it all plays a little like “Primary Colors” in soft slippers, perhaps after a couple ofcalming brandies, that’s how Clooney rolls: maybe he is the next Cary Grant, after all.