Two Cranky Guys Debate: Does George Clooney’s ‘Ides’ Have It?
Bruce Fretts: The presidential campaign season is upon us—not just on the GOP trail but at multiplexes with George Clooney’s new drama The Ides of March. The question is, Bret: Did it win your vote?
Bret Watson: Like the voters, I think I was hoping for something better. The movie focuses on Ryan Gosling as an aide to a governor running for president (Clooney). It’s a tale of disappointed ideals, the education of a political operative. The problem is, as good as Gosling is, I didn’t care too much what happened to the character. Maybe these days it’s just hard to create likeable politicos. Did you wig out for these wonks?
Bruce: Having worked on a few campaigns in my lifetime, I’ve learned not to expect candidates or their aides to be likable, so I wasn’t disappointed. And I was impressed by how realistic the film was. It was based on a play written by a former Howard Dean staffer, and I kept waiting for it to turn stupid and become a typical Hollywood political thriller, but it never did.
Bret: So did you ever get to do some after-hours lobbying with an intern, the way Gosling does with Evan Rachel Wood?
Bruce: I was an intern on a campaign once, and no one ever made a pass at me. That damn Kitty Dukakis! I thought Wood was terrific as the smoking intern in Clooney’s closet, to mix my metaphors. Did Evan Rachel give you Wood?
Bret: I knew you’d go there. I was troubled by one short cut in the screenplay—Reader, avert your eyes now if you intend to see the movie: She finds out she’s pregnant and has put in a call to the governor to get money for an abortion, yet in the meantime she can enjoy an evening between the sheets with Gosling? That seemed too big an emotional leap. One minute she’s purring, the phone rings, the next minute she’s mewling. Do you have such mood swings?
Bruce: Only if it’s my time of the month—when the alimony’s due. That leap didn’t bother me so much, although I was slightly disturbed that we weren’t shown the scene when Gosling gets fired and decides to go rogue and join the rival campaign. It seemed like a sudden switch for a guy who was such a true believer in Clooney’s cause. That said, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are both so good as the competing campaign managers that I didn’t mind a few shortcuts in the screenplay. Are those two ever not great?
Bret: They may be my favorite two living actors, and to see them in one movie is a treat. Too bad they don’t share any scenes. So did you get caught up in this drama? I can’t tell how much you liked it. It got more compelling toward the end, but I remained a bit aloof from the movie, not caring too much what happened to Gosling. You know, sort of how I react when you tell me stories about what you did last weekend.
Bruce: So you’ve forgiven PSH for The Savages? Because I still haven’t forgiven you for walking out of it when we went to see it. To be clear: I wholeheartedly endorse The Ides of March. I’m Bruce Fretts, and I approved this message. I just wish it had a better title—not only is the Shakespearean reference heavy-handed, but it’s too tempting for hack critics to make puns like “Beware ‘The Ides of March.’” Which I totally would’ve done if I hadn’t liked the movie.
Bret: Et tu, Bruce? The movie makes a great companion with a fascinating new book I’m reading, The Dictator’s Handbook. The authors look at leaders and politicians through history and show how, no matter who it is, their guiding motivation is always to stay in power. I’m using this as a guide for running my own business. L’etat c’est moi, baby.
Bruce: Consider yourselves warned, Watson Adventures employees. I found Ides far more entertaining than the current real-life campaign. I tried to watch the GOP debate the other night and soon found myself switching over to baseball instead. What a snoozefest. Charlie Rose (who also appears in Ides) moderated it, woozily, sitting with the candidates around a “kitchen table.” But no food was served—no wonder Chris Christie dropped out!
Bret: I want to live in an America where being overweight isn’t a source of ridicule. I say this as an overweight American. And I want a chicken in every pot, preferably with a side of fries.
Bruce: You would’ve thought Herman Cain could’ve at least arranged to have a few pizzas delivered.
Bret: I’m sure he would say, “I got my pizzas, you figure out how to get your own, you lazy bum! Or I’ll sell you a pie for $9.99.”
Bruce: But getting back to Ides, how about that Marisa Tomei as a muckraking reporter? And her name: Ida Horowicz. I could’ve watched a whole movie about her: The Idas of March. I love me some Marisa Tomei. I wish they’d given her more to do here, as well as in Crazy Stupid Love. That Ryan Gosling hogs all the scenes in his movies.
Bret: Tomei is also one of my favorite actors right now. And I like Clooney. It’s interesting in Ides how he makes his character both likable and yet a bit too slick. As rousing as his speeches sound, they also have the ring of hollow rhetoric and empty promises. We think, Here’s yet another guy who’s say anything to get elected. It makes it difficult to care what side Gosling lands on.
Bruce: It’s not Clooney’s finest performance, but I respect what he’s trying to do as a writer and director as well as an actor. Much like he uses his celebrity in real life to draw attention to important causes like genocide in Darfur, he uses his box-office clout to get intelligent movies made like this one, Up in the Air, Michael Clayton and Good Night and Good Luck. Plus, he gets more tail than Sinatra.
Bret: Sinatra doesn’t get nearly as much tail as he used to.
Bruce: He still gets more than you do.
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