Friday, December 16, 2011

The Ides of March

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN isn't a horrible film, I would just never want to watch it again. It partly suffered too because I had just been watching Ozu's LATE SPRING. After watching a beautiful masterpiece of character and humanity, you just have no patience for an art film that is neglectful of these two qualities.

THE IDES OF MARCH isn't an art film, but a very good Hollywood political drama. Perhaps it benefited from playing after something so spirit-crushing as KEVIN, but I thoroughly enjoyed its ability to engage you with its ideas and conflicts. It's a brisk, well-paced film that packs a lot into its running time and rarely if ever slips into unnecessary filler. Clooney (as co-writer and director) deserves a lot credit for getting down to the meat and bones of his narrative and telling it clearly and effectively. Here is a film, unlike KEVIN, that actually has a story to tell and is confident in that story. It doesn't need flashy editing to distract from its narrative self-consciousness, but moves along economically and progressively like a good political story should. Also, like a good political story, it engages you throughout and makes you feel as if you are being treated to something privileged and confidential. Clooney understands the game of politics so well that he knows how to engage us with all the deceit, compromise, and betrayal of it, but also absorb us in the little details that go into making a successful presidential candidate. The film basically focuses on the drama surrounding an Ohio Democratic primary, but it always lets us know the stakes and score behind everything. This way, we are drawn into its narrative and characters so that we feel all of its little twists and turns because we actually give a shit. Sitting there watching the film, Brandon and I were outspokenly reactive to the movement of the story because we actually cared about what and who we were watching. And, like children listening to secrets, we were very interested.

THE IDES OF MARCH obviously benefits from being smartly written, not needing to be flashy, limiting its scope, and focusing on a select group of characters. This sense of cohesion and lucidity helps it pay off beautifully in the end. It's very fine work from a smart director in Mr. Clooney. And it's very fine work from all the actors involved. Hey, remember when Ryan Gosling was in movies and not just meme-fodder for tumblrs everywhere? If you do (and you've forgotten about CRAZY STUPID LOVE but remember DRIVE) then you will appreciate how good of an actor he actually is. He has such a wonderfully expressive face and knows how to sell his emotions to you. He may not be a very smart person (as Brandon can verify), but he's a smart actor. And, of course, all the other talented actors from Hoffman to Giamatti put in typically solid work. This a very good film that knows how to entertain and engage in equal measure.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is too confused to know what it wants, but THE IDES OF MARCH knows exactly what it is. For that, I'd take it any day of the week over KEVIN.

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