Movie review: The Ides of March (2011)

I had the vague feeling of déjà vu as the movie started…yes, I definitely had seen it before. Clearly, it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me, or at least the name of the movie didn’t.

The Ides of March is not a bad film. It was on my to-see list due to the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays a major role in the film.

The movie is set in Ohio during the Democratic presidential primary. We see all of the dirty politics that happen despite the best of intentions. A commentary on human nature? Or on politics?

Morris, one of the presidential candidates, is a thinly veiled Howard Dean with stanch principles and honesty. He will not define himself as a Christian, but he is not a non-Christian, not an atheist, not a Muslim, not a Jew. He believes in the Constitution. And gets hammered for this stance.

This, I think, is where the similarity with Dean ends. At least the story takes turns that I don’t believe the Dean presidential run did.

He refuses to make deals. One of his top aides in the campaign (Steve) is his top aide because he believes in Morris. He is an idealist. But at the same time Steve is doing the typical dirty political tricks such as digging up dirt on the other candidate in order to get the media talking about that rather than real issues. A negative campaign. So much for ideals. So much for talking about issues that matter. It is still all about winning.

Things get complicated after Steve meets with a top aide for the other candidate who offers him a position…on the supposedly winning side. There are twists and turns and double-backs that can get a bit confusing. Deals are made, unmade, and different deals made. Steve, the aide that is working on the campaign only because of ideals, because he believes in the candidate, ends up blackmailing Morris. And Morris, the candidate so full of ideals himself, is mired in the mud with infidelity which resulted to the terminated pregnancy and death of an aide.

The movie made me even more cynical (if that is possible) of the political process. It is all smoke and mirrors, backstabbing and intrigue. Candidates, even the ones full of big ideas to change the country, are all the same. And the voters are manipulated in this game of power plays.

The movie has some big names: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Ryan Gosling, and George Clooney. Hoffman and Giamatti might be enough of a reason to see it.

One point of interest to me was mention that Ohio has an open primary. Independents and Republicans can also vote in the Democratic primary. Voters of these affiliations might vote against Morris, a Democrat, because they do not want him to be the Democrat that the Republicans run against in the fall. This situation reminded me of the result of the recent Republican primary in Mississippi, which knocked the Tea Party candidate out of the race and had him crying foul play.

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