The best parts of George Clooney’s The Ides of March are those scenes centering on loyalty, betrayal and revenge—which is not surprising as the title is an allusion to a pivotal moment in the Roman political arena immortalized in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. While there is nothing that compelling on display here, Clooney’s (co-writing, directing, starring) film is a fairly enjoyable drama about a rising young junior campaign manager(Ryan Gosling) for Democratic presidential candidate Clooney—and what happens when some crises fall Gosling’s way--in the form of an invite (from a cool, calculating Paul Giamatti) to join the other team—and a casual fling with a campaign intern (Evan Rachel Wood) that leads to some unwanted revelations that could bring down candidate Clooney. The weakest parts have to do with Gosling’s savvy character’s first reactions to the news regarding his intern. It reminded me of supposedly sharp cop Andy Garcia’a over-the-top, shocked reaction in Night Falls on Manhattan when he learns that there’s (gasp!) corruption in the NYPD. In other words, how could the Gosling character—in this day and age—be so overcome by certain developments? However, once you get past that, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had in scenes involving Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman (whose monologue about loyalty is one of the best moments of the year), Gosling and Giamatti-especially when Giamatti reveals his Macchiavellian side, and in the climactic confrontation between Clooney and Gosling where each plays his hand—with no less than the future of the free world (perhaps I’m exaggerating) at stake.
There is one genuinely funny bit in Hall Pass–a married supporting character fantasizes what his life would be like if his wife gave him a “hall pass” (a coansequence-free week off from marriage and his scenario is a quick homage to Double Indemnity/Blood Simple, replete with illicit passion, murder, witnesses and a backyard which soon becomes a graveyard. It’s fast, clever and hilarious. Alas, it comes about 95 minutes into the movie– long after the main conflicts have been resolved and immediately after a title card flashes “Directed by the Farrelly Bros.” The rest of Hall Pass reeks of both laziness and desperation.