Well, now we know: he was spending three years plotting his leap to the Hollywood A+ list. Front and centre in Blue Valentine (that was this year, wasn't it?); Crazy, Stupid, Love; Drive; and now The Ides of March? That kind of run would make even Nic Cage jealous – let alone that critics might hang on to the screener DVDs of Goslings film for more than drink-coaster-value after a first viewing.
There can be no denying it that Gosling has made the transition from indie darling to mainstream giant. And what better way to cement your arrival in the big leagues than sidling up next to the sexiest man alive himself, Mr. George Clooney?
Despite them each sharing half of each others' faces on a movie poster, the pair don't end up sharing a lot of screen time. In fact, Gosling isn't really into sharing a lot of screen time with anyone, unless it is one character at a time.
The story is told exclusively from the perspective of Stephen Meyers (Gosling), whose side we don't leave for longer than a minute through the whole film. Meyers is the Junior Campaign Manager under Paul Zara's (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Senior for Governor Mike Morris' (Clooney) democratic presidential primary bid.
Sparked by an offer for a private meeting from the rival campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) and a romantic liason with a provocative intern (Evan Rachel Wood), Meyers' personal and political lives slowly unravel in a whirlwind of back-stabbings and double-crosses.
The agility in writing necessitated by such rampant deceit among its characters is demonstrated by the script's meticulous plotting. Not only is each twist and turn timed perfectly, but each is also carried out realistically motivated characters – a detail made all the more important by the political context of the film.
Such strength in story comes as no surprise, as the screenplay was adapted from a previous work by Beau Willimon’s play entitled Farragut North, after a transit station at the heart of D.C.'s political district.
The film wears its stage origins on its sleeve; a medium marked by emphasis on drama in its most proper sense: strong characters acting against one another to create tension. Sadly it is just this emphasis that ends up leaving the film rather flaccid as a political drama; a problem not helped by Clooney's thoroughly practical and nonhazardous direction.
Ides presents a rather bleak view of modern American political machinations, but not a particularly thoughtful one. We can't help but feel as if most of the story could be lifted into a nonpolitical setting without much trouble, with occasional peeks into Governor Morris' platform feeling more like a friendly reminder of what kind of movie we're watching than any essential part of the main proceedings.
The whole cast brings their A-game, with special mention going to the heavily featured Hoffman, an endlessly natural and resourceful actor whose next appearance I crave throughout the film, and whose campaign manager role is twinned by Giamatti – the next-best character actor in Hollywood.
Also worth noting is the sizzling chemistry between Gosling and Wood, with the former's sickening amount of charm making itself evident. Oh, and Marisa Tomei frumps it up (sexily, of course) as a ruthless Times reporter.
So if you're looking for a crackerjack 100 minute (what a quickie!) mystery drama with lots of nice neckties and American flags, and/or if you want to hop on the Clooney/Gosling joy train, this is the film for you. But if you're looking for something you can think about after, maybe pick up The Economist from the newsstand instead.