Very Good, No Oscar Cigar

Reviewing from the Venice Film Festival, The Playlist‘s Oliver Lyttleton has given George Clooney‘s The Ides of March a solid B. “We had a blast,” he says. “It’s not as accomplished and impassioned as Good Night and Good Luck, but unlike Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, it’s tonally assured, and unlike Leatherheads, it’s, well, watchable. Very watchable in fact.

“Whether wider audiences enjoy it as much [as I did] remains to be seen. We’re fairly sure that its early annointment as an Oscar front-runner will disappear quickly , but it at least happily confirms that Clooney-the-director is here to stay.

Ryan Gosling caps off an extraordinary twelve months with another top turn. It really is his show, the film’s riffing on idealism really a feint for a picture about the loss of a soul.

“The script, with Clooney sidekick Grant Heslov rewriting Beau Willimon‘s play Farragut North is, if nothing else, a model of how to open up a piece of theater for the big screen. It’s witty, though lacking the zip of, say, a Sorkin, and, for all its instant messaging and Chris Matthews cameos, oddly old-fashioned, right down to the jazz singer who scores an early scene.

“Clooney makes it work here, thanks undoubtedly to dp Phedon Papamichael (Sideways), who gives a real chill to the Midwestern landscapes, and makes effective use of some Gordon Willis-esque silhouettes — although it should be said that the director overplays his ‘let’s frame the characters in front of the American flag’ a little in places. But it never feels small-scale, and fully embodies the addictive chaos of the campaign trail, something that keeps people like Gosling’s Stephen ‘married to the job,’ and that’s certainly a victory for a film like this.”

From Variety‘s Justin Chang: “Ho-hum insights into the corruption of American politics are treated like staggering revelations in The Ides of March. George Clooney’s fourth feature as a director observes the inner workings of a Democratic presidential campaign through the eyes of a hotshot press secretary who isn’t as smart as he thinks he is. Something similar could be said of this intriguing but overly portentous drama, which seems far more taken with its own cynicism than most viewers will be.

“Still, despite general-audience aversion to topical cinema, a top cast led by Ryan Gosling and Clooney could swing adult viewers in the Oct. 7 release’s direction.”

14 thoughts on “Very Good, No Oscar Cigar

  1. I prefer Confessions as well. Good Luck is a great movie to be sure, but Confessions seemed like something totally unique with a great vision. Leatherheads never happened and that is the story I am sticking to.

    Gosling always seemed a little miscast in this role so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

  2. I rarely consider the reviews of The Playlist or Variety, so I’ll be waiting for some bigger guns to sound off. The title seems a bit award-baiting, almost too dramatic and tragic.

  3. I feel like this could be good casting for Gosling, because I find I prefer him in mainstreamier roles. I mean, he’s fine in Blue Valentine and Half-Nelson and all that, but he sometimes across as affected and actor-y (I know some people, especially JW, feel this way about Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but I actually find Gordon-Levitt pretty fantastic in offbeat roles, and sometimse a little mannered when he tries to play buttoned-up or “normal”) .

    But in Crazy Stupid Love, Gosling is terrific in an otherwise not very good movie. Even in The Notebook, which I mostly hate, he’s one of the best things about it. He’s a surprisingly adept old-fashioned movie star. But maybe I’m just biased against the pretentious faux-realistic miserablism of the likes of Blue Valentine (I don’t know, though — the people who made Half-Nelson also did Sugar and I liked that movie a lot more; maybe the same thing will happen when Mr. Blue Valentine departs Gosling’s company).

  4. Justin Chang’s take was *exactly* the reaction I had to the play (which, admittedly, I saw in a low-rent fringe-theater production). So I’m hopeful Clooney/Heslov have polished and upgraded it. And I really do love Gosling.

  5. Dave Karger is already saying it’s a lock for a nomination. And if we learned anything last year, it’s NEVER doubt Colonel Karger. Right, Jeff?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>