The future is once again playing at your multiplex, but it could also be the present, with isolated warring factions amidst a parched wasteland and rapacious leaders who bully the underprivileged masses by hoarding all manner of resources, including water and gasoline.
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.
The American starring George Clooney is attractive to look at…and that’s about it. The plot deals with an assassin/weapon maker who wants to get out of the game (following a taut opening sequence that leads us to expect more from the movie).
If you’re looking for a feel-good film for the holidays, Up in the Air is not it, despite the jaunty nature of the nonstop television ads. Jason Reitman, working from his and Sheldon Turner’s script, from Walter Kirn’s novel, creates an arresting yet ambivalent portrait of a smooth frequent-flyer who has spent his life avoiding personal connections, while racking up the miles by working for a company that has prospered- namely by firing employees for firms without the wherewithal to do it themselves. The film is graced by a winning George Clooney performance as a downsizer/motivational speaker (how’s that for a winning combination) who –when he isn’t preparing terminated employees for a life of “unlimited possibilities”, is motivating others to get rid of the excess baggage in their lives (I do believe there are some not-so-subtle metaphors here).