Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Ides of March

Welcome back to another edition of Film Friday!  This week I decided on doing a film that’s still in theaters, to see if I could convince any of you to actually go and see it.  Ides of March is a political thriller, starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney (who also had directing duties), which showcases a darker side of the Democratic race for an upcoming presidential election.

Steven Meyers (Gosling) is a junior campaign manager with an impressive resume working for Mike Morris (Clooney), one of the Democratic presidential candidates.  Morris is an ideological mix between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.  Both presidential candidates are trying to win Ohio, which has proved to be a crucial state in the past few elections.  The idea is whichever candidate wins Ohio, wins the candidacy.  After one particular intense debate between Morris and his opponent, Meyers gets a call from his opponent’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giametti), who asks to meet up with him at a local bar.  Meyers is offered a position working for said candidate, Senator Hoffman.  While all this is going on, Meyers also starts a sexual relationship with an intern who is working on the Morris campaign named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who’s hiding her own secret.   All of these different events combine to tell a tale of loyalty, integrity, and politics, and leave you with this question: what lengths would you go to fight and protect something that you believe in?

Let me start this review by saying that the first thing I said after the last shot of the film was, “This was the best film I have seen in five years”.  Everything about it was film-making at its best.  From the story (which is based on the play Farragut North), the acting ensemble, the cinematography, and even the music: everything about this film was done perfectly.  The acting ensemble was one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Even with powerhouse lead actors like Gosling and Clooney, the ensemble feeling shined through.  If there is any justice left in this world, Ryan Gosling will be nominated for the best actor Oscar this upcoming award season.  He stole every scene he was in, and his character went through huge changes throughout the story, showcasing his superb acting chops.  He began the story as someone who was determined to fight and work until Mike Morris won the election, due to the fact that he believed in what Morris was saying and what he was fighting for.  By the end, after the different twists and turns the story took, he became someone who was so determined to win just to say that he won.  He became ruthless and heartless, not really caring who he trampled on to achieve his goal.  He realizes that the only goal in politics is to win and that second place is meaningless.  Another strong acting performance was Molly, played by Evan Rachel Wood.  She is definitely an up and coming actress who gave a career-making performance in her role (have you seen her in HBO’s Mildred Pierce?!)   I definitely see a long career ahead for her.  Her raw talent is reminiscent of some old-time actresses, the ones we remember for decades.

George Clooney (who I secretly hate and admire at the same time) is a genius.  His performance as a politician was very believable.  He played the role with the perfect amount of charm, and anytime he was giving a speech or taking part in a debate on-screen my eyes were drawn to him.  I think he actually exudes the amount of charisma needed to be a politician in real life.  Despite his fantastic acting, his strong point in Ides of March was his direction of the film.  The film is shot as a constant build up to the climax, becoming an explosion of all the little plot lines colliding into one.  Every scene made you anticipate the next one, leaving me on the edge of my seat for most of the film.  The story was built in such an amazing way that when it ended, I was sad because I wanted it to just continue on.  I refused to leave the theater because the film was that good;  I wanted to see more.  It is apparent that Clooney took his time with the film because every scene mattered.  It was carefully lit to expose the dramatic or the comedic parts of the story, and there was careful placement of American flags and other paraphernalia which were used to help frame the scenes.

All I can say is that you need to go see this film.  It had a strong story, strong actors, and a strong director which all blended together to make this a tour de force of a film.  I truly hope this film will be remembered come award season because it has everything that a best picture nominee should have.  As always, I leave you with a question: what do you think goes on behind the scenes in politics? After seeing this film you will definitely wonder about the candidates that you vote for.

 7 out of 5 stars

Ides of March (2011)
Cross Creek Pictures
R, 101 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – The Notebook

Hey guys. Sorry for the lack of review last week, I was on vacation/recovering from working 16 hours on Cinco de Mayo, but I’m back. For this week, we are going back to what this set of blogs was originally supposed to be about: reviews for movies based on books or works of literature. This week is also a new genre for this series: a romance. For this week’s movie, I will be reviewing Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook.

The Notebook starts off with Duke (James Garner) telling an unnamed woman (Gena Rowlands) a story. The story is about young lovers Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams), who meet one night at a festival. From the moment he sees Allie, Noah is enamored with her and has to go on a date with her. He goes as far as climbing up a Ferris wheel to ask her out, to which she eventually says yes. Their relationship is volatile, with constant fighting and making up. As the summer goes on they become more serious, but they break up after a fight one night and Allie moves out of Seabrook and into college in New York. Noah writes one letter a day for a year to Allie. Unfortunately, she doesn’t receive any of the letters because they are intercepted by her controlling mother, Anne Hamilton (Joan Allen). Allie eventually moves on while in college, while Noah goes to fight in World War II. When some of the soldiers come back, Allie volunteers as a nurse’s aide and falls in love with wounded soldier Lon Hammond Jr. (James Marsden), eventually becoming engaged to him. When Noah comes back from the war, he repairs an old plantation home that he purchases and gets his name and picture in newspaper. While Allie is trying on her wedding dress, she sees Noah’s picture and decides she needs to go visit him to move on with her life. When she goes to visit him, she realizes her first love isn’t completely dead and must choose who she wants to share her life with. Does she choose the man she promised herself to or her first love?

I have to admit, the first time I saw this movie I was pretty sure I was just going to see another chick flick with a sappy ending. I actually enjoyed this movie a lot more than I was expecting to. The story, which is based on Nicholas Spark’s novel, is a truly original take on a classic love story. Most love stories are too pure and the couple always gets along in an unnatural way. I liked that this couple despite all their flaws truly loved each other. Like Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth from Persuasion, the sum of the couple as a whole was better than their existence separately.

Another highlight of the movie was the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, who played Noah and Allie. They played off their character quirks quite well, and I almost felt like I was watching a real couple rather than characters. (In reality, McAdams and Gosling did date for 3 years after making the Notebook). Rachel McAdams was especially incredible in this role. She embodied Allie. She seemed so genuinely conflicted in choosing between Lon and Noah. As the viewer, your eyes are just drawn to her when she is on the screen.

All and all I really enjoyed the Notebook. It has a great story, but also features even better actors that bought the story to life. Like always, I will end my review with a question: do you believe true love exists? If it does, do you think it truly conquers all? After seeing this movie, you might change your perspective on true love. Until next time, happy viewing.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Notebook (2004)
New Line Cinema
PG-13, 123 Minutes