**1/2 (out of four)
Obviously, the timing isn’t great for a movie about Democrats duking it out for their party’s presidential nomination. And the secrets that leak out during “The Ides of March” certainly have been temporarily withheld many times before in real-life campaigns with stakes far higher than Academy award potential.
Yet the remaining potency of this political drama from director/co-writer/co-star/future presidential candidate (?) George Clooney comes from its sobering look at the futility of idealism in a world that never fights fair. Adapted from the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon, the plot about a governor (Clooney), his press secretary (Ryan Gosling), the campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the intern (Evan Rachel Wood) is very Clinton-era, but the film’s frustrated disillusionment is pure Obamanation.
The loaded cast is like a crew trying to stare “Contagion” in the face and gloat, “What, you call those movie stars?” Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright add plenty of weight to “March,” and Clooney makes the most of his salt-and-pepper likability in what’s ultimately a small part. In many ways the show belongs to Gosling, Hoffman and Wood, and the crackling performances help counteract the story’s familiarity.
This is a movie about people who each draw lines in the sand in a different place, yet everyone compromises in ways they never thought they would. “Politicians Fight Dirty” isn’t front page news, and a certain level of naivete (or just arrogance) is necessary for these characters to get into the sticky situation that develops. But a convincing demonstration of the difference between change-based rhetoric and status-quo behavior can’t help but feel sadly relevant.
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