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Et tu Clooney?: We've seen it all before, but Clooney lets the actors shine in The Ides of March 

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Pretty boy George Clooney gets a bad rap, ranging from attacks on his liberal politics to jealous jabs at his good looks. The problem with this is that Clooney is a really good director and couldn't care less what people say. Clooney is also a damn fine actor, so it's no surprise that Ides of March, although driven by political force, is all about the acting.

Touting a superb cast and based on Farragut North, a 2008 play by Beau Willimon, Ides tells the tale of an idealistic political staffer (Ryan "I'm in every movie" Gosling), who gets a crash course in dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail working for a presidential candidate (Clooney). Unfortunately, not much transpires that we've not already experienced in the political movie realm. Nothing new is revealed. There's no surprise when we see the inner workings behind political wheeling and dealing. We're supposed to have enormous feeling for certain characters, but as the film progresses, you feel more inclined to hate just about everyone in this flick. Maybe that's the point.

Again, Ides is all about the performances. It's Gosling's movie all the way, but just seeing Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the same flick is almost worthy of goose bumps. And the always-dependable Marisa Tomei shows up and, thankfully, doesn't have to have sex with an ugly guy this time around.

After being introduced to the chess game of politics, about a third of the way in I'm wondering... where is the tension? When it kicks in we get a good suspenseful feel for about three minutes, but then Ides refuses to go in the direction you'd like it to. Right when we think it's going to go the path of Julius Caesar, Ides just kind of rides off on a self-explanatory train.

Clooney's direction is surprisingly underwhelming. The simplistic, easygoing approach harkens back to the Hollywood of yesteryear. The problem, however, is that this style doesn't mesh with today's hot political topics. Sure, pipe dreams are shattered and slimy shady dealings behind closed doors are powerful, but without the versatility or complexity of Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts or Michael Ritchie's The Candidate, the only motivating force is Clooney's agenda. More times than not, Ides feels only like a vehicle to showcase Clooney's left-leaning politics. I really liked where I thought it was heading, but in the end everything about this flick is just too obvious. Plus, Clooney isn't very pretty this time around.

Ides of March

(one star)

Starring George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright

Directed by George Clooney

Rated R


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