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.”